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Family law

Confirming and registering the death

Confirmation by a doctor or nurse of the cause of death

When can doctors and nurses issue a certificate of cause of death?

Burial and Cremation Act 1964, s 46AA-46B

If a person has died after an illness or some other natural cause, usually the doctor or nurse who has been caring for them will issue a “Certificate of Cause of Death”. The body can’t be buried or cremated without this certificate. (This isn’t a “Death Certificate” – that’s the certificate issued by Births, Deaths and Marriages after you’ve officially registered the death with them.)

If the deceased had been ill, the doctor or nurse can’t issue the cause of death certificate unless they’re satisfied the death was a natural consequence of the illness.

Usually doctors and nurses can’t issue a cause of death certificate for an accidental death, and instead have to report it to the coroner. But there’s an exception when a person over 70 dies after an accident; in these cases, the doctor or nurse can issue a certificate so long as the accident resulted from physical problems linked to the person’s age, and the death wasn’t suspicious or unusual and wasn’t caused by someone else.

Once the doctor or nurse has issued their certificate, the deceased’s body can be released to the family, so that they can prepare for the funeral. The family can move the body home if they want to, or to a funeral home.

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A death in the family

Where to go for more support

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.

Registering a death


The Births, Deaths and Marriages section of the Department of Internal Affairs has information on its website about registering deaths.

Burial and cremation

Local council websites have information about burial and cremation in their particular areas.

Financial support for bereaved families


Work and Income’s website has information about possible financial support for funerals and tangihanga. Click on “Benefits and payments / Urgent or unexpected costs”.

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. Go to: www.acc.co.nz , and click on “I’m injured / Types of financial support / Financial support if someone has died”.

Gathering kaimoana for tangihanga


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

Organ donation


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

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