Natural Burials

Kiwis ahead of Italian designers

The natural burials concept touted by Italian designers on a tour of New Zealand arranged by the Italian Embassy, started here ten years ago, and the nation now has a dozen natural cemeteries.

Mark Blackham, founder of the Natural Burials organisation, said today that the Italian’s idea of burials generating forests was excellent, which is why New Zealand had already done it.

“The Italians are at least ten years too late – we’ve already had the idea and are doing it.

“There are about a dozen natural cemeteries, with more being planned by local authorities.

“The practical and environmental lessons we’ve learned in making these cemeteries has been exported around the world,” Mark said.

Mark explained that the modern idea of natural burial originated in the UK in the early 1990s, where there are now hundreds of natural burial grounds. The first cemetery outside the UK was in Wellington New Zealand.

“A natural burial in New Zealand involves no embalming (or natural embalming), shallow burial in untreated wood caskets, trees planted over the body, and regeneration of cemeteries into forests.

“Every local casket manufacturer makes natural coffins from various untreated woods, including practical versions made from cardboard, flax and willow.”

“It’s a wonderful concept in tune with New Zealander’s love of nature. Hundreds of New Zealanders have been buried naturally. Over 30% say they would probably or definitely use it if available,” Mark said.

Natural Burials is a not for profit organisation started 18 years ago, to initiate, promote and oversee natural cemeteries. It works with Councils to set up the cemeteries following environmental protocols, certifies funeral directors and caskets, and promotes availability regionally.

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2 thoughts on “Kiwis ahead of Italian designers

  1. Dorothy Thresher

    Hi Team
    I love the idea of the organic shaped burial pod, I think because it is womb like.
    I live in the north island and I’d probably prefer to be buried closer to home and to reshape as a tree. Do you know if there are any of these natural sites in the Waikato? Do you know if we can obtain the pods over here?

    1. admin Post author

      Yes, Hamilton now has a natural cemetery. You can read about it here
      Yes, the pod looks nice, but 1) the practicality of carrying it has not been considered, and looks like it would be difficult 2 ) they’ve bound up the idea of a natural burial with the pod, and a natural burial is now hardly a new idea and 3) they don’t make them – they’re concept only.
      If you want something similar-ish, you could check out the rounded designs of Return To or the willow caskets of

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