Wellington council’s considering a rent-a-grave scheme

As is the case with many other local authorities around the country, the Wellington council’s cemeteries are running out of room.

In fact, Karori Cemetery has run out of room and Makara Cemetery is predicted to be full by 2038.

One proposed solution is a rent-a-grave scheme, where the deceased can be buried for a period of time. Just how long this period would be has yet to be decided. Suggestions range between 15 and a hundred years.

Once the “lease” expires, the proposal suggests exhuming the remains and either relocating or cremating them. The grave would then be repurposed for another person.

Although nothing has yet been decided – the idea is still at its concept stage – preliminary research suggests some Wellingtonians would not be averse to the idea.

Of 130 people surveyed for Wellington council’s report into the idea, 40 percent said they somewhat or strongly agreed with the idea while 50 percent either somewhat or strongly disagreed.

If approved by the Council, the plan will be released for public feedback. It is expected that by May 2021 the a final plan will be ready for presentation to councillors.

Wellington City councillor Fleur Fitzsimmons says she understands the proposed plan is “not for everybody.”

“It’s not something I would be comfortable doing for my family but there has been interest from other [Wellington] residents.”

If the scheme were to go ahead, it would not impact existing graves, she says.

She says temporary ownership of a grave is “common” across other parts of the world and would need to be introduced “with real sensitivity and care.”

The problem Wellington cemeteries are facing is echoed around the country, across the ditch in Australia and – in fact – throughout much of the world.

It’s a concern New Zealand’s funeral directors have been grappling with for some time.

The laws in New Zealand are old and there’s a sense here that the rules need to be relaxed about where and how you dispose of a body, they say.

Funeral Directors Association of New Zealand CEO David Moger says attitudes are changing on both sides of the Tasman.

“One of the key things around that is being able to make sure families get what they need, because the process of a funeral and a meaningful funeral and the process of grieving are very, very personal,” he says.

Other countries have long abandoned the idea of resting in peace in the same plot forever.

As an example, although Singapore, Germany and Belgium offer public graves at no charge for the first 20 years or so, families can either pay to keep them or the graves are recycled.

After that, the most recent residents are moved further into the ground or to another site, often a mass grave.


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News category: New Zealand.