Council considers DIY coffins

20:02, May 13 2012
tdn coffin stand
Vospers Funeral Services manager Bruce Hanrahan says more and more people are opting for the environmentally friendly pine coffins.

New Plymouth residents considering a natural burial may soon be able to build their own coffin.

Awanui Cemetery, one of only two sites approved for such burials in the country, has had 235 plots available for natural burials since April last year but as yet none has been used.

At the moment, only Natural Burials New Zealand certified caskets and shrouds have been permitted at Awanui but the New Plymouth District Council is considering a change to allow homemade coffins to improve the uptake of the natural sites.

"Council staff have been advised of individuals who want to make their own caskets," Reserves planner Warren Dalgleish wrote in a report to councillors.

"Relaxing guidelines to include homemade caskets constructed to eco standards is a possible way of improving the use of Awanui's natural burial area."

The idea easily made it past the policy committee stage with councillor Howie Tamati particularly interested if such a proposal would allow traditional woven flax shrouds.


Vospers Funeral Services manager Bruce Hanrahan said there was nothing to stop people building their own coffin but making an eco-coffin was no easy job.

Budding builders must use untreated wood and natural biodegradable materials with no synthetic finishes or attachments.

Glues and metal components are out but it still has to be strong enough to take the weight of a body.

"And it's still got to meet burial regulations and local authority bylaws and it does have to have a waterproof lining," he said.

He said eco caskets could start at $1000, about double the price of the cheapest standard coffin.

There are no plans on how council would monitor it The proposal will go before full council on June 5.

z Justin Butler is a Witt Journalism Student

Taranaki Daily News