Natural Burials is a not-for-profit organisation formed in 1999 by a group of New Zealanders wanting to create and operate natural burial cemeteries. To this day it is staffed entirely by volunteers. If you would like to help, especially advocating for local cemeteries, please get in touch.
Our fundamental premise is that in death people can make the ultimate gesture to the environment – by ensuring their death funds and nourishes the restoration of land to a more natural state.
The principle is part of a wider movement that aims to bring about a psychologically healthier social attitude to death.
Prominent in forming our organisation have been GPs and other health professionals, funeral directors, business-people, sociologists, educators, lawyers, and environmentalists.
In 2002 we resolved to change the fact that there were no natural burial cemeteries outside of the UK. We cast around our home of New Zealand looking for suitable locations. We settled upon Wellington, the capital city, which had a particularly receptive population and a visionary Council to assist us. In 2008 we established the first natural cemetery in a city outside of the UK.
Since then we have advocated for natural burials in NZ, helping establish other cemeteries, and setting up a certification process for cemeteries, funeral directors and caskets.
Our NZ approach differs from the UK in that we have to satisfy numerous laws and by-laws. Since the current law implies that only local authorities can set up and run cemeteries, we chose to partner with local authorities to provide cemeteries. We’ve come a long way since complete resistance from councils in 1999. There are now many natural cemeteries and “zones”. Over half of them are certified by us, or were set up on our guidelines.
Some councils have consigned natural burials to small zones, which will never be forests and still have to conform to old ideas of grave depth and mowable lawns. That’s not good enough. It is one reason will still try to change the law. We were a core contributor to the Law Commission 2014 review of the Burials and Cremation Act which has recommended allowing non-council cemeteries.