The Ministry of Health has powers and responsibilities under the burial and cremation legislation. It authorises Community and Public Health staff to carry out legislative and contractual functions in Canterbury, including reporting on a range of burial, cremation and disinterment situations.
Community and Public Health has a number of responsibilities under burial and cremation legislation, including:
- New Crematoria
- Closure of cemeteries and burial grounds
- Repatriation of deceased foreign nationals who have died in New Zealand
- Investigation of illegal burials
- Burials in special places
- Burials at sea
Community and Public Health works with territorial local authorities (e.g. City and District Councils), burial ground owners and funeral directors to carry out its functions under the burial and cremation legislation.
Territorial local authorities provide and maintain cemeteries for the burial of the dead but churches also provide and maintain denominational burial grounds, for the burial of deceased persons of particular religion(s). There are also urupa (maori burial grounds) in Canterbury.
Funeral directors arrange for the burial or cremation of the dead, including embalming if required, and assist at the funeral rites. They often are the applicants for disinterment licences.
New Crematoria or Closure of Cemeteries and Burial Grounds
If a new crematorium is to be built, or an existing premise reconstructed or adapted to be used as a crematorium, the following have to be submitted for approval to the Ministry of Health before work is commenced:
- Plans and spcifications for the premises (including a site plan)
- Details and specifications of the equipment
Applicants should consult with a Health Protection Officer as early as practicable, to enable a report to be submitted at the same time as the other information for the Ministry of Health.
Upon application for closure of a cemetery or burial ground, the Minister of Health may direct that a cemetery or burial ground be closed.
Applications for disinterment must be in writing and are usually made by:
- a person(s) related to the deceased;
- the executor of the Will of the deceased;
- a funeral director acting on behalf of either of a relative or executor;
- an iwi/Māori authority acting on behalf of the close relatives or
- another person acting for the family.
Download information and appropriate forms for disinterment applications [89Kb Word Document].
In Canterbury, applications should be submitted to Community and Public Health who will assess the application and forward the application to the Ministry of Health, together with a report and recommendations.
Repatriation of foreign nationals who died in New Zealand
Normal procedure is for the funeral director, in the country where death has occurred, to consign the body to a funeral director designated by the relatives of the deceased. The NZ funeral director should obtain the details of requirements imposed by the country of destination. Sometimes the Medical Officer of Health is requested to provide additional certification relating to the deceased.
Investigation of illegal burials
Community and Public Health will undertake a full investigation in the facts surrounding an alleged or suspected unlawful burial, when advised. The findings of this investigation (including recommendations) will be reported to the Ministry of Health.
Burials in special places
On occasions, individuals may wish to be buried on private land or other than in a cemetery or burial ground. For a burial in a special place, the applicant must show exceptional circumstances, which make the burial of that body in that place particularly appropriate. Each application is determined on its merits.
Burials at sea
Burial at sea is an authorised method of disposing of a body, and controls apply. The person in charge of the burial must ensure that all requirements have been met before proceeding with the burial. Approval for burial at sea will depend on the intended burial site. Seven sites have been selected to ensure that disturbance of remains is minimised, including one in Pegasus Bay (approximately 60 km northeast of Godley Head).
Christchurch City Council
Ashburton District Council
Hurunui District Council
Kaikoura District Council
Selwyn District Council
Waimakariri District Council
Funeral Directors Association of New Zealand