I am wondering whether there is enough interest in our community to investigate further the possibility of a 'Natural Burial' site in the Karamea area.

What is a Natural Burial?

In general terms, a natural burial is one in which:

The body is not embalmed and allows for speedy decomposition.

The plot is usually less than one metre deep.

The casket is made of easily degradable materials (real wood, linen, willow, cotton etc).

The site may be planted out in native trees and shrubs.


There are now many councils in New Zealand offering such sites, which began in Wellington in 2008. Now 10% of Wellington's burials are in a natural burial site. Westport now has a section of the Orowaitit Cemetery set aside for natural burials. Perhaps a service could be offered in Karamea for those interested?

Margaret and I have both been trustees of the Karamea Cemetery trust (21 years for Margaret and more than 10 years for myself). Although we have been involved in all aspects of the work involved in this voluntary committee, neither of us has ever intended to be buried in the cemetery, but see it as a vital community function and service. It has always been my intention to be buried, but in a more 'natural' environment.

The existing Karamea Cemetery

The Karamea Cemetery Trust manages the Karamea Cemetery for the Buller District Council. It is a registered cemetery reserve, and over the years has amalgamated others in the area including Little Wanganui and the South Terrace.

Our cemetery is a quiet country cemetery with about four burials per year. Our community is proud of its neat appearance, with concrete berms, headstones and well maintained lawn. It is financially sustainable and has capacity for burials at the current rate for another 25 years or so. It needs to acquire adjacent land, ideally, in the near future, to cater for demand in time. But that is another issue.

The Karamea situation

I am not aware of any other enquiries to date about the need for such a facility in Karamea, but it could be a case of 'build it and they will come'. I have put this proposal to the trustees who have agreed to allow me to investigate the proposal further. Whether the Cemetery Trust wishes to proceed with this concept will depend on any proposal put to them, and no doubt a solid economic analysis to back it up.

It is my expectation that the cost of purchase and maintenance of a plot could be similar to our current costs, or maybe more, depending on finding a suitable site.


There is no capacity at the current site, nor is it an appropriate location. A separate site would need to be identified. Considerations of land status and ownership would probably be most important, and factors such as naturalness, accessibility, topography etc will need to be assessed. While a desktop study has been undertaken of council reserves, and some on-site inspections have been undertaken, a request to the community might discover other opportunities.

I have not spent much time considering sites. The area need not be large; maybe even half a hectare. It would need good vehicle access, parking availability, preferably a pleasant aspect with a view, and a 'natural' feel to the amenity of the area.

Process from here

The Karamea option is not as clearcut or as obvious a solution as that at Orowaiti.

The council has approved in principle the concept of a natural burial site in Karamea, subject to due process which might be as follows:

  1. Consult with the Karamea community
  2. Assess whether there is enough interest to proceed
  3. Invite suggestions for possible locations
  4. Discuss options with Karamea Cemetery Trust
  5. Discuss options with BDC staff and seek approval for a given site

I would endeavour to undertake this work. I am not speaking on behalf of the Karamea Cemetery Trust. I am asking this as an individual, with a good understanding of how the process currently works, and with an objective of providing an alternative and complementary service to our community.


If you have any interest in this concept being pursued, please contact me.

Email is preferable at

hlmacbethatyahoo [dot] com [dot] au

or phone 7826 888

I am interested to know if

  1. You (or a relative) would consider using such a facility
  2. You have private land that may be suitable for purchase or negotiation


Hamish Macbeth

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