Natural burials are under consideration for Canterbury but it may take several years before eco-cemeteries are operating in the region.
Council parks and waterways planner Eric Banks said two possible sites for eco-burials would be investigated for suitability as part of Christchurch City Council's cemetery review.
They included Le Bons Bay Cemetery and a piece of land adjacent to a cemetery on Christchurch's outskirts, which he refused to name.
Checks included ensuring they offered appropriate settings, had the right soil type and an adequate water table depth. Le Bons Bay Cemetery had passed most tests but was the furthest burial site for city residents.
The council was expected to adopt its draft cemetery master plan, handbook and bylaw at a meeting later this month, Banks said.
Almost half the submissions received during public consultation over the draft cemetery plan and bylaw, which was held between last December 14 and February 19, were about eco-burials.
Several local groups had strongly advocated for an eco-cemetery, including Diamond Harbour residents, he said. Their cemetery was too wet and on a slope but the council would look at other Diamond Harbour sites to create an eco-cemetery there.
Banks expected it would take several years before any eco-cemetery in the region was ready to start burials.
Ngai Tahu was being consulted as part of the process.
Natural Burials Organisation founder Mark Blackham said he had worked with the council, along with other eco-burial supporters, for many years to push for eco-cemeteries in Canterbury and lodged a submission about its draft cemetery plan.
"We've already told them about best protocols, land choice, soil and replanting over recent years."
He praised Greymouth District Council for announcing this week it would consider sites for an eco-cemetery after the issue was raised by a submitter at a council meeting.
Blackham planned to lodge a submission to support an eco-cemetery in Greymouth. He understood other areas looking at eco-burials included Auckland, Dunedin, Palmerston North, Hamilton and possibly Northland. He said it was a growing trend, with about 10 per cent of Wellington's burials in its eco-cemetery.
Unembalmed bodies, in an untreated soft-wood coffin, are buried in the top metre of soil. This is shallower than traditional burials, because increased microbial activity aids swift decomposition. Native plants are planted on the grave with the long-term purpose of establishing a native forest.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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