Otago priest has final say in burial site battle

Otago priest Fr Brian Fenton has had the final say in a long battle with officialdom to be buried on his own land.

Fr Fenton died on July 26 at the Little Sisters of the Poor Sacred Heart Home in Dunedin, aged 86.

After a requiem Mass at Holy Family Church in Wanaka on August 1, Fr Fenton was laid to rest at “Aorangi”, his property on Aubrey Road.

His niece, Mary-Jane Fenton of Invercargill told the Otago Daily Times that correspondence dating back to 1985 related to her uncle seeking approval to be buried on his own land.

The places people can be buried in New Zealand are almost always limited by law to official cemeteries or traditional burial grounds.

The Burial and Cremation Act, 1964, provides criteria for applications to be buried in a special place, including evidence of exceptional circumstances, supporting referees, iwi consultation and site assessments.

With a Queen Elizabeth II open space covenant protecting a tree arboretum at Fr Fenton’s Wanaka home, permission was finally granted by the Associate Minister of Health in 1999 for his burial there.

Fr Fenton gave detailed instructions for his funeral, including the number of shovels provided to fill in his grave.

He arranged for his coffin to be made out of a tree on his property.

He also requested “sufficient whisky (single malt) to be provided to those at the graveside, to drink a prayerful toast to my journey into eternal life”.

New Zealand’s Law Commission has proposed changes to liberalise the country’s burial law and submitters been largely supportive.

A report by Bell Gully lawyers stated legislative change seems inevitable.

“If passed, the new Act will have wide-ranging implications for all. Individuals and families will undoubtedly benefit from greater consumer protection laws and wider choice,” the report concluded.


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