Call for nat­u­ral way to go

Taupo & Turangi Weekender - - FRONT PAGE - Lau­rilee McMichael

Peo­ple who care for the en­vi­ron­ment while they are alive in­creas­ingly also want to care for it af­ter they die. That means de­mand for nat­u­ral buri­als is grow­ing.

Nat­u­ral buri­als al­low con­di­tions for speedy de­com­po­si­tion, and re­gen­er­a­tion of a nat­u­ral for­est above the graves. Noth­ing is in­tro­duced that would in­ter­fere with or pol­lute en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­cesses.

Plots are shal­low and the de­ceased are not em­balmed. They are buried in shrouds of nat­u­ral fi­bre or coffins of un­treated wood. The grave plots are filled with aer­o­bic, or­gan­i­cally ac­tive soil, over-planted with a tree na­tive to the area, and the whole ceme­tery is grad­u­ally re­stored to na­tive bush.

The grave’s lo­ca­tion is recorded by GPS in ceme­tery records rather than with a head­stone, al­though some nat­u­ral burial sites also have a re­mem­brance wall with plaques.

But if you want a nat­u­ral burial in the Taupo¯ dis­trict, you’re out of luck. Cur­rently the dis­trict’s three main ceme­ter­ies in Taupo¯ , Tu¯ rangi and Man­gakino do not make pro­vi­sion for nat­u­ral buri­als and the only op­tions are stan­dard burial or cre­ma­tion.

Sev­eral other dis­tricts have al­ready made, or plan to make pro­vi­sion for nat­u­ral buri­als, in­clud­ing Welling­ton, Auck­land, Carter­ton, Otaki, Nel­son, Motueka, Hamil­ton, Whanganui, New Ply­mouth and Hast­ings.

Linda McGro­gan and Jean Caulton want to change that, and they also want to raise com­mu­nity aware­ness of what’s in­volved in a nat­u­ral burial. With nat­u­ral buri­als be­com­ing more pop­u­lar, they hope to per­suade the coun­cil to make pro­vi­sion for them in fu­ture. The pair have spo­ken to mayor David Tre­wavas and also hope to make a pre­sen­ta­tion to the Taupo¯ Dis­trict Coun­cil’s Re­serves and Road­ing Com­mit­tee on the con­cept of nat­u­ral burial.

The coun­cil says of­fi­ceres are in­ves­ti­gat­ing the op­tion.

Tu¯ rangi res­i­dent Betty Wheeler made a sim­i­lar sug­ges­tion to the

Tu¯ rangi-Ton­gariro Com­mu­nity Board more than a decade ago but it was never acted on and Mrs Wheeler died in 2019.

Ad­vo­cates of nat­u­ral burial say the process is kinder to the en­vi­ron­ment and nour­ishes the earth, un­like tra­di­tional burial where the cas­ket and body can take years to break down be­cause of the lack of soil mi­crobes at depth. The de­com­po­si­tion may also re­lease chem­i­cals in the process.

Al­ter­na­tively, there is cre­ma­tion, which uses en­ergy and re­leases car­bon diox­ide.

Linda and Jean say even­tu­ally a nat­u­ral burial area will be­come a main­te­nance-free area of na­tive bush, where peo­ple can visit to en­joy the bird and tree life and re­mem­ber their loved ones.

Linda says she has left in­struc­tions for her own chil­dren that when she dies a nat­u­ral burial is what she wants. But be­cause nat­u­ral burial isn’t avail­able in the Taupo¯ dis­trict at present, her body would have to be shipped else­where to be buried ac­cord­ing to her wishes.

Linda and Jean say it would be up to the Taupo¯ Dis­trict Coun­cil to de­cide whether to set aside parts of its ceme­ter­ies for nat­u­ral buri­als, or des­ig­nate some other area of coun­cil land, but nat­u­ral buri­als are a grow­ing trend, and lo­cal au­thor­i­ties are legally bound to pro­vide the ceme­ter­ies their cit­i­zens de­sire.

As well as meet­ing with the mayor, the pair have also dis­cussed the con­cept with Shawn Ven­nell of Green­ing Taupo¯ and the Tu¯ whare­toa Ma¯ ori Trust Board. They next in­tend to ap­proach former Cab­i­net min­is­ter Dame Ge­orgina te Heuheu and the board of Te Ko­tahi­tanga o Ngati

Tu¯ whare­toa.

The pair say the beauty of nat­u­ral burial ar­eas is that they can be on hill­sides if need be and don’t have to take prime flat land.

‘We don’t have some­where in mind,” Linda says. “We don’t know whether the coun­cil will be for or against and it’s the coun­cil that has the say. We want to do what­ever we can to in­flu­ence them.

“It’s the way of the world, we are all be­ing more en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly.”

Jean adds that at this stage they just want to get peo­ple talk­ing about the idea - al­though she ac­knowl­edges some peo­ple are un­com­fort­able talk­ing about death - and if they want to reg­is­ter their in­ter­est with no com­mit­ment, then that is also fine. She adds that oth­ers may also pre­fer a tra­di­tional burial or cre­ma­tion and that is their choice.

Photo / Lau­rilee McMichael

Jean Caulton (left) and Linda McGro­gan hope that ris­ing de­mand for nat­u­ral buri­als will per­suade Taupo¯ Dis­trict Coun­cil to set aside an area of land.

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