Growth puts Warkworth cemetery under pressure

Growth puts Warkworth cemetery under pressure

Warkworth cemetery is filling up but the escalating cost of real estate in Warkworth could make finding a new site a challenge.
Warkworth could soon be looking for a new cemetery.

The current Auckland Council-run facility in McKinney Road is down to its last few plots and investigations have started on alternative sites.

However, Council’s manager of cemeteries Catherine Moore says that unfortunately, the ground they are looking for is also attractive to developers.

“The site has to be convenient to a number of settlements and large enough to serve the community for at least the next 100 years,” she says. “Ideally, it will be about five to 10 hectares, flat and well-drained.”

Council runs eight cemeteries in north Rodney catering for, on average, 20 to 25 burials a year. Last year was an exception with 39 burials. The busiest cemeteries are Puhoi and Te Kapa, at Martins Bay.

There are also at least six private cemeteries, such as Leigh, Whangateau and Pakiri, which are located either on private or Crown land, and run by trustees.

A plot in a Council cemetery costs between $2000 and $4000, depending on the cemetery, and the burial fee is just over $1000.

Catherine says a number of cemeteries still have reserved family burial areas, but a change in legislation in 1964 meant that plots can only be reserved for 60 years. If they are unused within that timeframe, they can be re-sold. Previously, they were held in perpetuity.

“This can be a worry for some families, but we’re not actively re-selling plots so we advise families to wait until a plot is needed before re-purchasing.”

Pets cannot be buried in human cemeteries and there are rules around how graves can be adorned. Monuments must be placed at the head of the grave and cannot be more than one metre high or one metre wide.

“We do occasionally make exceptions to this rule, though, particularly if it is in an older cemetery and is in keeping with existing monuments,” Catherine says.

She says a lot more people are choosing cremation over burial and families can deposit up to eight sets of ashes in one plot.

“Natural burials, using untreated timber caskets or shrouds where there is no embalming, are also on the rise. These are only available at Waikumete in Swanson at present, but we are looking at extending that option to other cemeteries.

“Instead of headstones, these areas are eventually planted with native bush. It appeals to people who want an environmentally-friendly option.”

Burial on private land is unusual, but not illegal. However, anyone contemplating that option has to get permission from the Ministry of Health.

There are also some restrictions on spreading ashes. Regional parks and the botanic gardens don’t allow the practice, and Council prefers them not to be spread near sports fields and playgrounds, or anywhere near where food is produced.

Catherine says Maori also prefer that ashes not be spread on waterways. She says it’s a difficult area, as there are no hard and fast rules.

“Generally, I’ve noticed that over the years, funerals have become less formal, and more of a celebration and reflection of the person’s life. I’ve seen a truck driver’s casket arrive on a big Mac truck and motorcyclist enthusiasts carried to the cemetery in a convoy of motorbikes. People are individualising the ceremonies.”

Council still makes provision for “paupers graves”.

When no family or friends are on hand to assist, and no provision has been made to meet the financial costs, an unmarked grave is provided. Catherine says that normally the person is cremated, unless there is a clear reason for burial. Work & Income contributes just over $2000 towards costs in these cases.

Council holds cemetery records back to the 1880s and records are searchable online on the Council website, under ‘cemeteries’.

Plans are also underway to digitise the original records so they can also be viewed online.

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