Ashes to Ashes - Dust to Dust!
Wednesday, April 15, 2015 at 11:21AM
Bill Barclay

It is purely coincidental that consultation hearings are being held today at the Castle on the Cemeteries Bylaw, along with the Gambling Policy and Venues, and the ‘dead in the water’ Psychoactive Products Retail Location Policy, just when the controversy over Adrian Catran’s proposed cremator in Kirkwood Street has hit the headlines, with a slanted and biased font pager in the "Herald, and a more balanced TV3Campbell Live item last evening.

Last night’s performance on Campbell Live was a revelation in many ways, and Adrian C. acquitted himself remarkably well in the face of the demonstration of abysmal ignorance and prejudice displayed by his opponents, led of course by Karl Edmonds. Overall, the interviewer gave a fair crack of the whip to both sides, but I imagine that most fair-minded people would have seen through the utter negativity and vacuity of the anti- arguments.

Adrian on the other hand made the necessary case in support of his proposals while the Council representative came across as a fashionably bearded, and dark-spectacled puppet who hardly knew what he was talking about. His statement that “Elected members would want some form of consultation on the matter in view of the public opposition to the proposal” was total nonsense of course inasmuch as it is purely a planning matter within existing policy and legislation – nothing whatsoever to do with elected members. He should be very careful not to dig himself into a ‘conflict of interest’ situation that he may have difficulty defending at a later date.

Aside from Karl Edmonds futile ‘march’, the only thing that matters now is Adrian’s intention to sponsor a public information meeting later this or early next month along with a representative from the cremator manufacturer, to explain his plans and answer some of the stupid and premature nonsense that has been circulated around this town over the last few weeks.

Council may consider sending its spokesman Ben Day along in order to explain just how he intends to put a legal spoke in the works. His explanation of the Council’s sudden acquisition of new powers over Commercial/Industrial designated sites in the town, and activities taking place within the existing foot-prints should in itself make attendance mandatory! Perhaps he could dwell at the same time on the difference between foundry and cremator activities in terms of ‘change of use!’

Could they possibly be planning a ‘late-change’ to the draft District Plan? That would be a major, and implys unacceptable delays to the already delayed Plan. No wonder the Mayor and Chief Executive ran for cover last evening, and sent Day to the front door to be 'door-stopped' by the pesky press!   

Back to the Cemeteries By-law.

The only really interesting matter that is to be brought up during the public presentation today relates to the rather similar submissions by several members of the Thames Natural Burials Group of which Jeanette Fitzsimons appears to be leader. This is her submission:

“I am a member of the Thames Natural Burials Group, a loose association of people wanting a more ecologically appropriate way of burying the dead. Thanks you for granting us two days’ extension because of our email problems. I request:

That a specific area of cemeteries, and in particular the cemetery at Totara, be set aside for natural burials in shallow graves (1metre deep) of unembalmed bodies in biodegradable coffins or shrouds with the area landscaped and planted as a whole in native species.

My reasons: My vision is of an area which is landscaped as a whole; a native woodland which would attract birds and be a pleasant and healing place for relatives to visit and reflect. This cannot be achieved with the current proposal to allow “natural” burials pepper-potted among other graves and surrounded by mown grass.

The area would be planned, with grave sites purchased in the usual way, but not necessarily arranged in straight rows like a parking lot. The area chosen would be particularly suitable for close to waterways as there would be no pollution from embalming chemicals or treated timber caskets and the bodies would break down naturally into humus.

We are looking at forming a Trust to work with the Council on mutually acceptable ways of carrying this out. Some of our members have considerable experience in landscaping and in establishing native plantings.

We are well aware of the need to facilitate access and vegetation management in the design. I envisage the area being developed in small blocks with the landscaping planned from the beginning but only commenced when each block is full. Until then the area would be mowed by the Council with the rest of the cemetery and kept tidy.

As each block is planted the Trust would take over management and the Council would save the mowing costs. In the long term it would need very little management and would come to resemble a natural forest.

Several Councils in NZ have already developed the natural burial option; notably in Wellington, Hamilton, Auckland. More information about the underlying philosophy is at

I have published this in full in order that you can get the full picture and implications of what is being proposed. It is not a bad idea – very Green inspired, and seems to work with the ‘natural burial’ proposals already contained with the draft By-law with the exception of “pepper-potting.” The Greens who support Jeanette appear to prefer an exclusive area within cemeteries that can be occupied in a more ‘natural’ random manner – possibly “higglety-pigglety’ may be a better description.

That suggestion may meet with strong opposition from Parks & Reserves people who are responsible for maintaining the cemeteries in an orderly manner, but straight lines are clearly an anathema of these people, though whether they would be prepared to go the barricades over it is moot. Having a separate area in itself may cause some concerns in regard to the actual operation of cemeteries.

Frankly, it is really of little concern in my view if certain people in our community prefer to be buried in this manner. We have so much invested in these facilities that it is really only of concern that people continue to buy plots of whatever shape size and depth – the continued move to cremation and spreading of ashes all over the countryside is of far greater concern in terms of getting a satisfactory return on rate-payer investment.

Consider for a moment the utter waste incurred in pursuing the new Whitianga site a few years ago to meet the continuing demand for about five burials a year in that town – there will never be a satisfactory return on that piece of McLean inspired madness, regardless of the number of cremations, or ‘natural' burials.




Article originally appeared on BillBarcBlog (
See website for complete article licensing information.