Values underpinning our proposals
1.21In Issues Paper 34 we described four principles that must be fundamental to any reform in this area. Those principles, which we continue to endorse, are as follows:
- Dignity of the deceased body—in all cultures, the deceased body has a special status. While dead bodies do not have a right to dignity (because dead bodies cannot hold rights), it is broadly accepted that treating deceased bodies with dignity reflects our own dignity as human beings.
- Tikanga Māori—the imperatives of tikanga relating to death, mourning and tangihanga are significant and deeply held. It is therefore important that any law reform in this area leaves space for tikanga to operate as much as possible, where appropriate.
- Freedom of religion and belief—the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 recognises the right of all citizens to practise their religion or beliefs and the right of members of minority groups to enjoy their culture. Rituals around death and burial are often significant elements of culture, religion and ethnicity. Therefore, any law reform in this area must allow as much flexibility as possible around the customs and rituals of death.
- Legislative certainty and accessibility—the law must always be clear in its requirements so that people know what their rights and responsibilities are. This is particularly important in the area of burial law where decisions must be made quickly and are often irrevocable.
1.22In our view, the new statute should have a purpose provision that reflects these values and forms the backdrop for interpretation of all the other provisions in that statute and that informs how powers given under the statute should be exercised.