A head count of the Waikato district’s dearly departed has unearthed a worrying trend – with council staff finding a growing number of illegal burials.
Waikato District Council is currently auditing the region’s 20 cemeteries and found a number of people’s ashes had been buried in the cemeteries without council knowledge.
About one set of new ashes is being discovered each month.
Cremations are seen as an affordable alternative to burials but interring ashes in cemeteries can cost up to $515 within the Waikato district.
Council water and facilities general manager, Richard Bax, said the council had to follow strict rules in managing the cemeteries and couldn’t remove people’s ashes without family members’ approval.
Mr Bax said there were many ways family or friends could be involved in the process of burying loved ones but burying of ashes needed to be managed by council’s contractor in an allocated plot.
Currently, buried ashes were being marked on council maps but were not marked at the site.
‘‘If we were to dig up the remains, a disinterment would have to be done and all documentation lodged with the Ministry of Health. A disinterment is a complex process and all family members must sign a document. In most cases we do not know who the family is as it [the site] is unmarked.’’
The problem was most noticeable at Ngaruawahia’s Jackson Street Cemetery and Huntly Cemetery.
Bryce Mounsey, owner and director of Huntly-based Haven Funeral Services, had noticed a slight increase in people choosing cremations, with funeral costs ‘‘a large driver’’.
‘‘When cost does matter people are erring toward cremation and if people want to intern ashes in a public cemetery they have to pay the associated costs and basically they’re going up because the district council are placing more emphasis on a return for the burial and cremation services.’’
Funeral director Gareth McMullan, of Simply Cremations, in Hamilton, said eight out of 10 funerals were cremations with cost a major factor in people’s decisions.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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