Timaru council OKs natural burial option

RHONDA MARKBY
Last updated 12:23 27/02/2013
cemetery
OISIN DUKE/Fairfax NZ

OPTIONS: A bylaw change in Timaru has opened the way for natural burials in the district.

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It's now technically possible to have a natural burial in the Timaru district - there just isn't any special area set aside for one.

But just in case someone wants a natural burial in the next few years, the council has built that into its new bylaws.

What is now possible, is a chemical-free interment in a biodegradable casket. It would need to be at the traditional burial depth if it was to be in a council cemetery, according to parks and reserves manager Bill Steans.

The issue was raised at this week's bylaw submission hearings as the Medical Officer of Health had sought for the burials to be deeper than the 250mm in the draft bylaw.

The council agreed.

The submitter also mentioned the need to ensure animals were excluded from the natural burial area (including rabbits) and there should be no likelihood of slumping or erosion of the site, to ensure the remains were not disturbed or exposed.

While none of the council cemeteries had natural burial areas at present, the bylaw meant if someone else wished to provide such a service, then it would be possible, Mr Steans said.

Natural burials were undertaken at the shallower depth as the soil biology was more active there, leading to quicker decomposition.

The council will be looking for additional cemetery space in the next eight to 10 years and it was possible a natural burial area could be included, Mr Steans said. Such a site was subsequently planted to form a native bush or forest area.

There was no headstone or memorial on the grave but burials could be recorded separately in a book, on site signs or digitally.

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- The Timaru Herald

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