Natural Burials

Natural Burials

Burial is the best choice for the environment. Everything about a natural cemetery should be “as natural as possible” – this means that there will be nothing introduced that can interfere with or pollute the environment.

At this stage there are two locations in New Zealand which are able to offer Natural Burials – Makara Cemetery* in Wellington and Waikumete Cemetery in Auckland.

Makara Cemetery – The Concept

We are able to arrange burials at Makara Cemetery (near Wellington), which specialises in natural burials. There will be additional charges for people who live outside of the Wellington district. Please feel free to ask about the transport and other costs involved.

The unique sense of place has been achieved through a clear guiding concept: the central idea is that everything about the cemetery is as natural as possible.

In essence, nothing is introduced to the cemetery which would interfere with, or pollute, environmental processes.

Plots are filled with aerobic, organically active soil, over-planted with a tree native to the area, and the whole cemetery is gradually restored to native bush. The surrounding soil and plants will gradually absorb all of the body nutrients and matter.

It is intended that the area in Makara Cemetery dedicated to natural burials will become a permanent bush park – a living memorial to those buried there, a home for native flora and fauna, and a beautiful place for family and friends to visit.

Makara Cemetery – The Essentials

This is a natural cemetery. Being buried at this site entails acceptance of the central concept and its consequences, and the following essential components.

1. No embalming: Bodies buried on this site must not be embalmed. This is to speed up the natural processes of returning the body and its nutrients to the soil, and to reduce the amount of artificial and toxic chemicals and materials we introduce to the soil.

2. Burial in the upper soil layers: Bodies will be buried as close to or within the active soil layer as possible. Depth will vary according to the soil conditions. Plots will be part refilled with compost to help enrich the soil.

3. Trees: A native tree will be planted at the head or base of the plot. You can choose from a dozen nursery plants. These trees are the basic building blocks of a native habitat restoration programme. Over time, other trees will be planted over and around the plot. To improve survival, the Council will NOT plant trees for plots in summer.

4. Caskets: You must use an approved “casket”. These caskets will be made from sustainably grown and harvested woods, with no chemicals or artificial compounds used in treatment of the wood or manufacture of the casket or its accessories.

5. Plot markers: A wooden post is sunk into the ground at the head or foot of the plot. You or your family can include on the post cap and sides a poker-burnt engraved inscription of your choice. The marker is designed not to be permanent but the plot and details of the person buried there is marked and drawn on a map held by the Council.

6. Pre-purchase: When booking a plot for immediate use, you can purchase a second plot alongside for use at a later time. There is an assigned area for partnered-plots. Individual plots cannot be pre-purchased.

7. Plot placement: The bush restoration system means we need to start plots from specific areas. New plots will be placed near newly created ones, so it will not be possible to choose isolated plots.

8. Artificial memorials: The central concept is to create an environment which is as natural as possible. Those buried at Makara wanted a natural memorial. It follows that we do not condone placing artificial memorials or other material on the site. These may be removed by the sexton at our request.

9. Artifacts buried with bodies: Please refer to the central concept for a guide on what to include or exclude from caskets. In short, anything artificial would contravene the natural goals of the cemetery.

10. Disinterment is discouraged for three reasons;

a) After some years, it is unlikely that much or anything remains of bodies to recover and move.
b) We will need to uproot trees to access and dig the plot, setting back the restoration progress.
c) The wishes of the deceased to be buried at this specific type of cemetery should be respected.

11. Ash burials are not possible because the natural cemetery is for body burial, and ashes contain no nutrients. An alternative idea is to use the existing ash interment at the cemetery and donate to Natural Burials instead.

12. Placenta burial: There is currently no provision for placenta burial at the site. This may be changed in the future. Please contact your funeral director for more information.

* The following information has been taken from the Makara Cemetery Website, referring to Natural Burials.