5 Jun 2014

Auckland cemetery plans 'insensitive'

8:13 am on 5 June 2014

Funeral directors argue proposed changes to the rules around burials and cremations in Auckland are insensitive.

The proposed amendments to the Auckland council's Cemeteries and Crematoria Bylaw include restricting the time when burials can take place, allowing only a person authorised by the council to fill a grave, removing flowers from graves two weeks after a burial and requiring bookings for cremations and burials to be made by midday the day before.

Chief executive of the Funeral Directors Association Katrina Shanks said families were not properly considered when the changes were formulated.

"In New Zealand, the great thing about being able to bury or cremate or say good-bye to the one you love, is that we haven't been tied up in paperwork, and people have had the freedom to grieve the way they'd like to. What these bylaws do, is take away the ability for people to be able to grieve in their own time-frame."

Ms Shanks said the proposals were designed to make things easier for the council, at the expense of families, and a council plan to impose an extra charge if it was not given notice for a burial was unacceptable.

She said the fact the council was willing to prepare plots with less notice indicated it was possible to do it within short time frames and it was just trying to make money.

A funeral director in Onehunga, Nick Bakulich, said in 99 percent of Pacific funerals, the family requested graves to be filled in and there needed to be information given about how a person could become certified.

"I would like to know what it means to be a certified person. From a Pacific Island perspective, it would be hugely insensitive if the families weren't part of that process."

The proposed bylaw will also limit the number of people allowed to witness a casket being placed in a cremator to two.

A trustee of Swaminarayan Hindu Temple in Papatoetoe, Bipin Tahakkar, said the limit was particularly concerning for Hindu families as they held ceremonies at the crematorium.

"If...only one person from the family's allowed, it's actually a restriction that may disturb the family. It is important for the family members to be with the body when they actually send it for cremation."

Cyril Schafer, an anthropologist from Otago University who studies funeral rites, said Auckland council's draft bylaw went against the current trend.

"Even in Pakeha traditions, there's been a real trend towards a sort of participatory, more flexible, more democratic, kind of rites. There's a few things in there that certainly don't go along with some of those ideas, and I can see them being quite problematic."

Councillor Calum Penrose said he has had a number of emails from different funeral directors concerned about the proposed bylaw.

Councillor Penrose said the council would listen to the community's concerns.

"We will go through it, and we'll make sure we listen and take on board all the concerns and all the proposals that are put towards us during the consultation process" he said.

The council intends to have the new bylaw in place in November.