9 Jan 2016

Aucklanders struggling with burial costs

10:15 am on 9 January 2016

Some Auckland families are being forced to choose cremation because the cost of burial is too high, the Funeral Directors Association says.

Close up of side of shiny wood coffin with hearse in the background

Coffin and hearse at the ready Photo: ( RNZ / Alexander Robertson )

Auckland Council raised the cost of cemetery plots, ash plots and interment fees last July, abolishing a subsidy in order to cover operating costs. The average cost of a burial was now $4410 in an adult lawn area.

The association's chief executive Katrina Shanks said the change had removed equality for Aucklanders, who all needed access to cemeteries.

She said it was now very expensive to be buried, which took away that option entirely for some people, even though it may be a cultural or religious preference.

Some people felt forced to bury loved ones far away or borrow money to bury them, she said.

"It's very, very expensive for many families to be able to access cemeteries. Our big concern has been it is taking the choice away from grieving families, whether they can afford to be buried or not.

"It shouldn't be based on whether they can afford to be buried. It's a core service of the council and they should assure that everybody in the community has access."

The move had put significant stress on middle to low-income families, Ms Shanks said.

She said there were 1543 burials in 2014 - up 15 percent since 2012.

She said cemetery costs were being unfairly imposed on those who couldn't afford it and said the council was making money from it.

However, the council has hit back at the association's claims, saying it had been working closely with the association, and its comments were disappointing and unfair.

Council spokesman Mace Ward said no one ever predicted the region's population would grow at the rate it had, and there were significant supply-and-demand challenges for cemetery services.

The council was always looking for better ways to provide such services and $46 million had already been put aside to help with that in the Long Term Plan.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs