Burial plots for shallow graves are being landscaped at Blenheim's Fairhall Cemetery.
Marlborough District Council started the development, in which unembalmed bodies in soft wood caskets will be buried just 60 centimetres deep to speed up decomposition, more than 18 months ago.
Council reserves and amenities officer Nic Crous said a buffer zone between the cemetery and a creek that runs into Fairhall River was to allow for maintenance and floodway control. Fairhall would be more than 8 metres from the riverbed.
Shallow graves could be damaged by excess water, erosion, flood debris and sediment in the event of a flood if they were too close to waterways, Mr Crous said.
The area between the cemetery and the creek would become a walking track with native plants.
An informal boundary between the traditional cemetery and the natural burials site was also being established.
Discussions were held between the council and not-for-profit organisation Natural Burials to establish a certified natural burials cemetery.
The next step was to plant along the established boundary with native plants.
"There has been quite a lot of progress already, horse paddocks and buildings have been removed and the area cleared and shaped," Mr Crous said.
Mr Crous said the council would establish a circular pathway leading to the creek over time. "The pathway will have ‘contemplation nodes' where visitors can sit in peace and quiet, perhaps watching the water or just listening to the birds once planting has matured."
No date has been set for the opening of the natural burials area.
- The Marlborough Express