Traditional burials are becoming a thing of the past, with 70 percent of New Zealanders now cremated, Photo: RNZ/Supplied

The earth is short of space – affecting customary expectations of how we bury our dead

How would you like to be buried?

Innovation in the burial space is booming, and the European settler tradition of burying a casket with an embalmed body in it is no longer the most popular way to go.

Today The Detail looks at what the current legal options are, and at some new methods being trialled overseas.

In New Zealand, about 70 percent of people are now cremated.

Senior Stuff reporter Will Harvie tells Jessie Chiang about the burials available to New Zealanders – including the less common ways.

“[One man] wanted a Viking’s burning pyre, so they built [a structure that was] a couple of metres high and long, full of wood, placed him in it and set it on fire,” he says.

In late October the Ministry of Health closed submissions on changes to burial law. The public had the opportunity to ask for new methods of burial to be allowed.

Harvie talks about the support behind water cremation and explains exactly what that involves.

The Detail also looks at human composting which was legalised in Washington state last year.

These new methods are environmentally friendly and focused on taking up less space as the global population increases.

Chiang also speaks to Linda Waimarie Nikora (Te Aitanga a Hauiti/Tūhoe), a professor of indigenous studies at the University of Auckland, about how different forms of burial intersect with Māori culture.

Nikora is also the co-director of Ngā Pae o te Māramatanga, known as New Zealand’s Māori Centre of Research Excellence.

“There’s some really, really exciting things on the horizon in terms of the different forms of disposal,” she says.

“Twenty years ago, 30 years ago, when the idea of cremation came across people’s paths, people within the Māori world sort of thought, ‘oh no, we can’t have that’, yet it’s now pretty much a common practice.”

Nikora also gives her take on human composting and whether she’d feel comfortable ending up on a dinner plate.

Jessie Chiang is the associate producer of The Detail podcast.

Leave a comment