The Law Commission of New Zealand has published an Issues Paper called The Legal Framework for Burial and Cremation in New Zealand: A First Principles Review
to encourage public feedback for a consultation on the topic:
"Until confronted with death, few of us are likely to give much thought to how the law affects how
we farewell a loved one and deal with their remains. When faced with this necessity, we often lack
the energy or time to consider the ways in which these laws influence the choices available to us with
respect to mourning, burial, cremation and memorialisation."
"New Zealand’s foundational burial statute was passed in 1882. Māori had also established tikanga, or
customary laws and practices, to ensure their dead were treated with respect and that the mana of the
deceased and their connections to whenua (land), tūpuna (ancestors) and whānau were reinforced.
Evidence of similar values and impulses can be found in the many historic cemeteries established by
European settlers during the 19th century and the memorials to the dead erected within them. These
cemeteries are important repositories of our heritage and yet today their preservation often depends
on the efforts of volunteers."
"This review provides us with the first opportunity in our country’s history to assess holistically
whether the law is meeting our needs and expectations when it comes to how we approach death and
the services and options available to us for the care and final disposition of human remains.
The terms of reference for the review extend well beyond the matters currently provided for in the
Burial and Cremation Act 1964. The Act’s framework has remained fundamentally unchanged for
over a century. In that time Parliament has enacted numerous statutes that impact on our burial
law and the management of cemeteries. Foremost among these are the Coroners Act 2006, the
Historic Places Act 1993, the Reserves Act 1977, the Local Government Act 2002 and the Resource
Management Act 1991."
"Our cultural landscape has also changed dramatically. These changes can lead to new tensions and
may require innovative approaches in order to accommodate the range of public and private interests.
For example, our society places particular emphasis on personal autonomy and the right to self-
determination, but alongside this there is a growing acknowledgment of the place of tikanga Māori and
the importance of connections to places and people. Irrespective of their ethnic origins and ancestry
many New Zealanders share these values and are looking for ways to affirm their own connections to
the land when they die."
The Issues Paper asks questions such as:
- Is it possible for a person’s body to be buried on private land?
- Or for mourners to arrange the burial or cremation of a loved one without any professional assistance?
- Are all those providing funeral and cremation services accountable to a professional standards body?
- Are families obliged to follow any instructions we might leave about what we wish to happen to our bodies after death?
- And what happens if a serious disagreement arises among the bereaved about the final arrangements?
There was a related Library Boy dated May 23, 2001 entitled New Zealand Law Commission Paper on Death and Cremation Certification
Labels: aboriginal law, government_New_Zealand, health law, law commissions