Contents

Chapter 12
Reform of places of burial

Extra obligations on local authority cemetery managers

12.73Despite our view that establishing new cemeteries should be open to more than just local authorities and denominational groups (we discuss this below in Chapter 13), local authorities will always be key providers of cemeteries because of the considerable impediments to establishing cemeteries, particularly the need for significant capital in land that will be tied up as burial land in perpetuity. While local authority-managed cemeteries should be subject to the general cemetery obligations described above—restrictions on the use of the land, record keeping and maintenance—we consider that their public nature means that there should be three additional obligations on them.

Duty to be open for the burial of any deceased person

12.74Currently, the Act requires all local authority cemeteries and trustee cemeteries to be open for the interment of all deceased persons.239 We consider that this obligation should continue for all cemeteries that were required to be open to the public before the new statute comes into force. It is inherent in the role of local government that the services they provide are for everyone. Similarly, existing trustee cemeteries have always been inherently public facilities and subject to public accountability. It would be wrong and unnecessarily disruptive to change that requirement now.

12.75However, this obligation should not extend to cemeteries where the local authority has taken over the management from another entity (unless that entity was also covered by this obligation). If the cemetery taken over had been established for the burial of a particular group of people, that should be able to continue under local authority management if that is considered appropriate by the local authority.

Recommendation

R45All cemeteries that were required before the commencement of the new statute to be open for the burial of all deceased persons should continue to be subject to that requirement, except when the cemetery management has determined that the cemetery has reached full capacity.

Duty to consider applications for separate areasTop

12.76In Chapter 11 we described that there is currently limited legislative recognition of the diversity of cultural, ethnic and religious needs in relation to burial. Although the Act enables local authorities to set aside separate areas for different religious denominational groups, it is not required to do so, nor is it required to consider applications from other groups.

12.77Despite the requirement on local authority cemeteries to be open to all people, we consider local authorities should be required to consider applications for separate areas within public cemeteries from any group of people with common burial requirements. While we recognise that local authorities will often have good reasons for declining such applications, they should be required to consider them in light of a number of statutory considerations.

Recommendation

R46The statute should require that local authority public cemetery managers must consider applications from denominational groups or any other group of people for a separate burial area within the cemetery. In considering such applications, managers must consider:
  • costs to the cemetery of providing a separate area (including, where appropriate, the applicant’s willingness to share those costs);
  • projected demand for the separate area; and
  • the effect of providing a separate area on the availability of land for burial within the cemetery and within the region.

Duty to create and maintain a cemetery policyTop

12.78It is a key plank of our recommendations that decisions about important aspects of the management of local authority cemeteries should be decided in consultation with the community it serves. This fits with the principles of consultation underlying the reforms in the Local Government Act 2002. Two particular decisions requiring public consultation are maintenance standards and the provision of special areas as we have discussed above. Decisions about these and other significant aspects of the management of local authority cemeteries should be transparent and made after public consultation.

12.79We consider that it is a logical extension that those decisions should be available to the public via a policy statement. In this document, the public should be able to read the current policies and the relative priorities given to the different needs of the community. Besides policies on maintenance and separate areas, this document should contain other information that impacts on users of the cemetery, such as:

12.80Currently, some cemeteries already have comprehensive policies on these matters, one example being the Wellington City Council “Cemeteries management plan” for Makara and Karori Cemeteries. However, many cemeteries have no clear policies or these are incomplete.

Recommendation

R47Local authority public cemetery managers should have a duty to create and maintain a policy for their cemetery, subject to public consultation, that covers at a minimum:
  • maintenance standards;
  • the provision of separate burial areas within the cemetery;
  • the opening hours of the cemetery and hours that burial services can be carried out;
  • the prices of plots and other fees for burial;
  • whether some plots may be sold for limited tenure; and
  • limitations on the rights of bereaved people to have memorials on the plot.
239Burial and Cremation Act, s 6. Section 6 applies to trustee cemeteries by virtue of the operation of s 25(2). Section 36 makes it clear that it does not apply to denominational burial grounds and private burial grounds.