You have four options about what happens to your body. You could choose to be buried in the earth or at sea, to be cremated, or to donate your body to medical science.

The option you choose depends on your religious and personal choices.


Burial is still a popular choice - it gives family members a permanent memorial to visit.

Burial requires buying a plot and usually a headstone marker. An interment fee is also payable: this covers the cost of digging the grave, and ongoing maintenance of the plot. Some people may choose to prepare the burial plot for the deceased themselves. Preparing the burial plot can often be therapeutic for the deceased's survivors.

Some sections of cemeteries have been made available for different religious groups. This is especially important for the Muslim community, who have to meet the Islamic requirement for a body to be buried facing Mecca.

Natural burials
Instead of headstones set in a neatly manicured lawn, natural cemeteries are usually planted with trees which grow to create a park. Bodies are buried as close as possible to the active soil layer to aid nature’s recycling. Bodies are not embalmed, and are buried in either a shroud or an untreated wooden coffin. For more information see our Green funerals report.


After cremation, the ashes are broken up and put into a container for placing in an urn. Your funeral director can provide a range of urns, or you can choose one of your own.

A relative of the deceased or an executor must complete an application for cremation. A certificate of cremation is also required - this is issued by a doctor for a fee and is in addition to the death certificate. Both the cremation application and cremation certificate must be filed with the crematorium before the body may be cremated.

Cremation means that the ashes can be buried, placed in a memorial, separated among family members, or scattered. When scattering ashes you must make sure that the area you have chosen is not close to traditional Maori food-gathering grounds. You may also need to ask for permission to scatter ashes in a park or sports ground.

Burial at sea

The New Zealand coastline has areas that are specifically designated for burials at sea, and burials must take place only within these "marine burial locations". A boat or helicopter is normally used for this purpose and a special type of casket is required. Your funeral director can advise you on this.


Arrangements for donating a body to science must be made before the person dies. New Zealand medical schools don't require constant donations of bodies, and there are a range of criteria that must be met (such as weight restrictions). Funeral costs are obviously much lower here, as no coffin, plot, cremation, or interment is needed.

An alternative to donating your body is to donate individual organs. Your funeral director can tell you more about these options.

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