Underground vault burials possible as Auckland's Waikumete Cemetery runs out of plots

CHRIS McKEEN/Stuff.co.nz
Waikumete Cemetery as seen from above on ANZAC Day.

 Underground vault burial spaces could be introduced at New Zealand's largest cemetery in the future due to a lack of space for new plots.

Waikumete Cemetery in West Auckland is set to reach lawn burial capacity in the next five years.

Auckland Council has started an investigation into possible options for extending the use of the 107 hectare land.

Waikumete Cemetery is the biggest in New Zealand, covering 107 hectares of land.
Chris McKeen
Waikumete Cemetery is the biggest in New Zealand, covering 107 hectares of land.

Its Environment and Community Committee launched a public consultation on the potential development zones for additional burial capacity within the cemetery.

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Committee chairwoman Penny Hulse said council needed to find the best way to extend the use of the heritage cemetery.

"We are at a point with Waikumete that development of new areas for burials is challenging for a variety of reasons," Hulse said.

The protection of the cemetery's natural environment, historic heritage value, land, planning and operational constraints all impacted further development of future plots, she said.

Waikumete Cemetery currently provides lawn and natural burials, areas for ash scattering and has a private and public mausolea.

Unlike other Auckland cemetries in Manukau and the North Shore, Waikumete's burial capacity was running out.
PAMELA WADE/STUFF
Unlike other Auckland cemetries in Manukau and the North Shore, Waikumete's burial capacity was running out.

The council has identified 23 areas within Waikumete for additional burial spots, offering a range of burial methods and underground vault burial spaces.

This meant interlocking modular vaults installed underground which would retain steeper, less stable land.

Grass could be grown over the vault cover, which is lifted for interment.

Committee meeting documents say lawn burial space at Waikumete is anticipated to run out within four years but it will remain an active cemetery for at least another 60 years because of pre-purchased plots.

If the cemetery was expanded using the 23 areas identified by council, 27,000 more burial plots could be created to meet demand for up to 20 years.

Other sites identified proved too difficult for expansion because of high ecological values, challenging physical characteristics and historical aspects.

Waikumete provides lawn and natural burials, ash scattering space and a mausolea.
SIMON SMITH/STUFF
Waikumete provides lawn and natural burials, ash scattering space and a mausolea.

If the site wasn't developed, Aucklanders would need to find plots in other cemeteries, the council said.

Meeting documents revealed work had started on identifying land for a new cemetery in the north-west to replace Waikumete, but that would not be operational before Waikumete plots ran out.

Hulse said council wanted to know what types of burials the community would be comfortable with.

"We're keen to hear from Aucklanders what areas they are willing to see developed to continue to provide burial plots for the next 60 years." 

The public consultation runs until April 2.

Stuff