Auckland Council push back on iwi calls to ban scattering ashes

7:13 pm on 1 April 2019

Scattering the ashes of the dead in public places and waterways is abhorrent and culturally inappropriate, Auckland iwi say.

cremation ashes

Photo: 123rf

Ngāti Whātua, Ngāti Whanaunga, Ngāti Tamaoho and Ngāti Te Ata Waiohua have made submissions to Auckland Council to ban the practice.

Ngāti Whātua tikanga advisor Dame Naida Glavish said it is a repugnant practice in Māori custom, especially in waterways.

"That's our food table - our eels swim in the waterways. Our food grows in the waterways," she said.

"Why would we agree that they would be growing, and we would be eating the food that mingles with the ashes of humans."

Auckland's regional parks, the Auckland Botanic Gardens in Manurewa and Parnell Rose Gardens have prohibited the scattering of ashes.

The council provides guidance on its website about other places where it might be inappropriate or insensitive to scatter ashes.

Iwi requested a ban as part of consultation on the draft Public Safety and Nuisance Bylaw 2013, but in February, a deliberation panel declined their request.

The bylaw, adopted late last week, continued the ban on scattering ashes in Auckland's regional parks but did not include any prohibition in public places.

Dame Naida said the council needed to make a call on this and prioritise the cultural protocol of tangata whenua over other cultures.

"Anybody who approves, or even considers approving, the scattering of human ashes in a public place, ought to first try scattering it on their own front yard and make it personal to themselves, rather than expecting the public at large to agree."

Auckland councillor Daniel Newman was on the deliberation panel and voted for a compromise - he wanted a ban restricted to waterways only.

"I was very moved by the submissions from mana whenua who sought changes to the public safety and nuisance bylaw.

"Fundamentally, we need to come back to who are our traditional guardians, and our traditional guardians have identified a cultural practice that is not appropriate.

"We ought to listen to them, and not be afraid of the political consequences of following that advice."

But councillor Linda Cooper, who chairs the regulatory committee and voted down the idea, said it was a sensitive subject and other cultures and religions will be impacted.

She said pushing the ban beyond regional parks would need much wider support.

"We have 19 iwi recognised in Tāmaki Makaurau, so we have heard from four, and the general public have not been consulted on the total ban," she said.

"So we need to have a conversation - to get this in a workplan."

Ms Cooper said the matter will come before the Environment and Community Committee in June to get a bigger conversation underway.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs