NZCCC: Bylaws on cemetery decorations sensible

Press Release – New Zealand Cemeteries and Crematoria Collective

NEW ZEALAND CEMETERIES AND CREMATORIA COLLECTIVE

Media release

30 September 2016

NZCCC: Bylaws on cemetery decorations sensible

Recent media coverage of Palmerston North City Council’s proposal to fast-track a review of its cemeteries and crematoria bylaw has highlighted the challenges councils face in balancing management of public spaces with individuals’ freedom to express their grief, says Michelle Rivers, Chair of the New Zealand Cemeteries and Crematoria Collective (NZCCC).

Ms Rivers said it was important people were able to grieve in their own way, and decorating grave sites of loved ones could bring happiness. However, when widely used, decorations could pose safety risks, increase maintenance costs and impede access to graves for those with limited mobility, where decorations block the paths. In high winds, decorations could also be blown around cemeteries and into neighbouring properties where they could impact wildlife and the local environment.

“Death and grieving is a highly emotive subject. Grieving means a lot of different things to different people and everybody grieves in their own personal way – some people prefer colourful graves and gifts for their loved ones, while others prefer natural groves of trees or manicured open spaces. For councils, this can mean providing a range of options and clarity around what is permitted in different cemeteries or burial areas and a bylaw can be a useful way of doing this.”

Many councils around New Zealand, including Auckland Council and Taupō District Council have bylaws in place to provide clarity around how different areas of their cemeteries can be decorated, and when broken items can be removed. Others, such as Christchurch City Council, have produced cemetery handbooks with sets of guidelines.

Some allow for certain areas where gardens and long-term decorations are welcome, and other areas where people understand they are to be left as lawn and flowers and decorations are taken away after a certain amount of days or months to reduce environmental impact and debris.

Ms Rivers said councils had a responsibility to provide cemeteries where people felt safe and welcome.

“Cemeteries play a central role in our society. They link past and present generations and provide a place where people can reflect on and remember their loved ones who have passed away. No one wants to see this role diminished and sensible management by councils is central to ensuring the continued enjoyment of these spaces.”

ENDS

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