Cultural concerns may change ashes bylaw

A draft bylaw that would allow human ashes to be scattered or buried in Christchurch's parks and reserves may be changed after objections from local iwi.

The Christchurch City Council's draft 2014 Parks and Reserves Bylaw was going to include a provision for ashes to be interred if written approval was sought from the council but it is now being reconsidered because it could be culturally offensive.

Mahaanui Kurataiao Ltd (MKT), a company that acts on behalf of the six runanga within Christchurch city, has told the council that if it enables the scattering of ashes in public places, it will alienate Ngai Tahu whanau from those public parks and reserve spaces.

It has cautioned that even if the scattering of ashes occurs on a limited or restricted basis Ngai Tahu whanau will be indefinitely bound in those parks and reserves by the same kawa (protocols) that apply in designated urupa (cemetery). That means they will be unable to eat, laugh, run or play in those areas.

MKT has asked the council to amend the bylaw to prohibit the burial or scattering of ashes of any deceased person or animal in any public park or reserve.

The bylaw was to be adopted by the council last week but it has been referred back to the hearings panel that considered the public submissions so it can give further thought to the concerns raised by MKT.

Hearings panel chairman Cr David East said the disposal of human ashes was a culturally sensitive issue and the panel would need to tread carefully.

It would probably seek to meet with MKT so it could get a better understanding of their concerns before making a final recommendation on how to proceed.

The existing Parks and Reserves Bylaw, which dates back to 2008, contains no provisions relating to the scattering of ashes and they can be scattered anywhere, including rivers and parks and reserves. The only exception is for the Botanic Gardens, where the scattering of ashes is prohibited.

East said the reason why staff had included tighter controls in the draft bylaw was because some plants did not tolerate human ash so the council wanted to have more control over the areas where they could be scattered.

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