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.
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.
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.
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.
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.