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Dunedin City Council – Kaunihera-a-rohe o Otepoti

A dedicated site for natural burials has been created at Green Park Cemetery. This type of burial is a natural and environmentally friendly process.

Bodies are not embalmed and caskets are made from untreated fibre and wood. The caskets are buried within the active soil layer, allowing for a more natural decomposition. Nothing is introduced to the environment that is not biodegradable and over time flora and fauna will regenerate on the burial site.

The plots for natural burials are larger than traditional plots, averaging 2.5m x 2.5m (traditional size is 2.4m x 1.2m) allowing room for planting on the graves. To allow the bush to regenerate, only one casket is buried in each plot and plots are allocated adjacent to the newly created ones.

Permanent headstones are not a feature of the natural burial area, but grave sites can be identified by GPS co-ordinates with a site map provided. Families are also given a wooden marker and the choice of a native tree to plant at a burial site. Wooden markers and plots will become less visible as bush regenerates enhancing the natural look and feel of the area.

For a list of suitable trees for the Green Park Cemetery please open the PDF document in the related information section.

Natural Burials Protocols

1. Preparation

  • The use of toxic embalming fluids is not permitted. If embalming is necessary (e.g. because there will be a delay of 5 days or more or if the person was on cancer drugs) the use of a certified eco-embalming fluid will be used.
  • The use of natural fibres for clothing is encouraged while non-biodegradable jewellery or accessories are discouraged.

2. The Casket

Caskets for natural burials must be made of biodegradable (preferably sustainably grown) materials. No lead, metal or plastic fittings are permitted, with the exception of metal screws and nails. No toxic glues, oil-based paints or artificial stains are permitted. All lining or filling must also be biodegradable.

3. The Plot

  • Bodies will be buried as close to or within the active soil layer as possible. Actual depth will vary according to the soil conditions, but will not be less than 750mm from the top of the casket to the surface. Plots are then filled with aerobic, organically active soil and will be topped up as required.
  • Only one casket will be buried in each plot.
  • Each new burial will be placed near newly created ones. Selection of plots will be limited to plots in the current block.
  • Reservations will not be available for plot spaces.
  • Graves are to be dug by an approved DCC contractor only. Family and friends may backfill a grave if they desire, otherwise this will be done by a DCC contractor.

4. Memorials

  • A native plant selected by the family, will be planted at the burial site. DCC contractors will supply and plant the tree. To improve survival, trees may not be planted at the time of burial as seasonal and ground conditions will determine the best planting time. Families will be invited to be involved in seasonal plantings.
  • Maintenance will be included in the Interment Fee.
  • Temporary non-treated wooden markers for the burial site can be no larger than 150mm x 100mm in size x 250mm high above ground level. The marker will be attached to an untreated timber stem with a maximum size of 100mm x 100mm that can be pushed into the soil.
  • These temporary markers will not be maintained or replaced by the DCC. The central concept of natural burials means no permanent (i.e. headstones) or synthetic memorials are to be installed at the site. Any synthetic materials left at the grave will be removed by DCC Staff.

5. Site Management

The area will be developed as natural bush grows. A site map of approximate site locations will be kept by the DCC, but due to the nature of regenerating forest, access to all plots will not always be available.

6. Maintenance

The natural burial area will be maintained as a bush regenerating site. Care and maintenance of the plants will be undertaken during the planting period after which only minimal maintenance will occur.

For more information please contact the DCC on 03 477 4000.

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