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Family law

Burial and cremation

Burials: Legal requirements

Documents that have to be completed before a burial

You’ll need to:

  • fill out the local council’s application form for the burial, and
  • show the council a copy of the Certificate of Cause of Death given by the doctor or nurse (or the coroner’s Order for Disposal of Body).

Where can bodies be buried in New Zealand?

Burial and Cremation Act 1964, s 46

Usually a burial has to be in either:

  • a public cemetery (these are run by local councils)
  • a denominational burial ground (these are usually small church burial grounds that cater for a particular religion, such as Catholic or Anglican)
  • an urupā (Māori burial ground), or
  • a private burial ground.

However, the body can be buried somewhere else if there isn’t one of those cemeteries or burial grounds within 32 kilometres of where the death occurred or where the body is going to be buried. In that case the nearest District Court has to be notified about the burial, including the cause of death. For contact details for the courts, go to justice.govt.nz/courts/district-court.

Buying a burial plot

You should check within the family whether the deceased had already bought a burial plot.

As an example, in 2021 a burial plot in the public cemeteries run by Porirua City Council cost $2,260 for an adult-size plot and $1,055 for a child (under 10). A second burial in the same plot cost $1,220, or $575 for a child.

You’ll need to pay for the plot immediately, or give the council proof that Work and Income or ACC will pay for it through a funeral grant (see: “Financial support for bereaved families”). If the deceased qualifies for a funeral grant, contact Work and Income or ACC first, so that this can be processed as soon as possible.

You should contact the local council at least 24 hours before burial to choose a burial plot, although in urgent cases you may be able to arrange a plot on the same day as the burial if you contact them early on that day.

The grave will be dug by the cemetery’s “sexton”, and the cost of this is usually covered in the charge for the plot.

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A death in the family

Where to go for more support

Community Law

Your local Community Law Centre can provide you with free initial legal advice.

Find your local Community Law Centre online: www.communitylaw.org.nz/our-law-centres

Confirmation of the cause of death – Coroners

The website of Coronial Services of New Zealand has information about the role of coroners in investigating the causes of deaths.

Website: coronialservices.justice.govt.nz

Registering a death

The Births, Deaths and Marriages section of the Department of Internal Affairs has information on what to do when someone passes, including registering a death.

Website: www.govt.nz/browse/family-and-whanau/death-and-bereavement

Burial and cremation

See your local council website for information about burial and cremation in your area.

Gathering kaimoana for tangihanga

The Ministry for Primary Industries has information on its website about Māori customary rights for gathering kaimoana for tangihanga, hui and other traditional purposes.

Website: www.mpi.govt.nz/fishing-aquaculture/maori-customary-fishing

Financial support for bereaved families

Work and Income’s website has information about possible financial support for funerals and tangihanga.

Website: www.workandincome.govt.nz/eligibility/urgent-costs/bereavement.html
Phone: 0800 559 009

ACC’s website has information about different types of accident compensation and payments that can be made to family members when a person has died in an accident.

Website: www.acc.co.nz/im-injured/financial-support/financial-support-after-death
Phone: 0800 101 996

Organ Donation New Zealand

Organ Donation New Zealand has information about organ and tissue donation.

Website: www.donor.co.nz

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