Chapter 1


1.6We divided this large project into four streams of work:

1.7The death certification stream was unique from the others because it was likely to be of particular interest to doctors, funeral directors and some public officials but not to the broader public. Consequently, we split that stream from the others and, in May 2011, published Issues Paper 23 on death certification entitled Final Words: Death and Cremation Certification in New Zealand.7 We received 45 submissions—half of those from medical professionals or medical organisations.
1.8In October 2013, we published Issues Paper 34 on the remaining three streams. That paper was entitled The Legal Framework for Burials and Cremation in New Zealand: A First Principles Review.8 Due to the broad public interest in these streams of the project, we utilised a comprehensive strategy for consultation, including printing and distributing copies of Issues Paper 34, including to public libraries.

1.9Of particular note, we held a series of public meetings throughout New Zealand on the issues raised in that paper, including many provincial centres such as Whangarei, Gisborne, Napier, Nelson and Rotorua. Particular attention was given to those places that had a significant Māori population where the practices of traditional tangihanga were well adhered to by the Māori community. These meetings were generally well attended and provided us with a clear perspective on the practical problems with the law in this area.

1.10We received over 260 submissions on these streams of the project—both comprehensive submissions on Issues Paper 34 and hard-copy or web-based responses to a shorter-form questionnaire. In addition to receiving submissions, we held meetings with a range of stakeholders. For example, we met with religious and community groups that had specific interest in how funerals and cremations are conducted. These included representatives from the Muslim, Hindu and Sikh communities. The funeral industry has taken a keen interest in the progress of this project. We met with the main industry bodies—the Funeral Directors Association of New Zealand, New Zealand Independent Funeral Homes and the New Zealand Embalmers Association—on several occasions and attended their conferences.

1.11We have heard the perspectives of local authorities in a number of ways including through discussions with Local Government New Zealand and the policy staff of several individual councils. We also heard the views of professional staff employed by councils to manage cemeteries and crematoria, through telephone conversations and attending the annual conference of the New Zealand Cemeteries and Crematoria Collective.

1.12Officials from various government departments have also been consulted throughout the course of this project, including officials from the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Justice and the Department of Internal Affairs. We have also consulted coroners and the Registrar-General of Births, Deaths and Marriages.

1.13We found strong interest in this project from Māori due to the central role of tangihanga in Māori life. We consulted with Māori through the public meetings and also through private meetings with people holding special knowledge of tangihanga. Meetings with iwi were primarily held in the North Island including Whangarei, Hamilton, Rotorua, Gisborne and Napier. The meetings were held in venues that hold an important role in the relevant Māori community. They included the Māori Land Court, iwi and hapū marae and urban or university marae. Iwi representatives were present at each of these meetings and ensured that iwi perspectives were well understood by us.

1.14In 2012 we re-established our Māori Liaison Committee to provide us with a Māori perspective on all of our projects. The Committee has among its members some of New Zealand’s foremost scholars and legal experts in tikanga and Māori law. The Committee provided us with invaluable guidance on the best way to deal with the sensitive issues of tangihanga. This is particularly reflected in the fourth stream of work on burial decisions. The intent of our recommendations in that section is to ensure that the principles of tikanga applicable to tangihanga are given space to operate in the decision-making framework.

7Law Commission Final Words: Death and Cremation Certification in New Zealand (NZLC IP23, 2011).
8Law Commission The Legal Framework for Burial and Cremation in New Zealand: A First Principles Review (NZLC IP34, 2013).