21 June 2021
A refresh of the Burial and Cremation Act 1964 and related legislation is another step closer with a new summary of submissions. An initial report from the New Zealand Law Commission found the 1964 legislation needed a significant refresh to modernise the law that governs death, burial, cremation and funerals in New Zealand. The Ministry’s Director of Public Health Dr Caroline McElnay says we need legislation that is modern and fit for purpose. “The Ministry of Health has received almost 200 submissions on the proposals, many focused around the process of death certification, auditing of death certification and regulation of the funeral services sector.” A summary of those submissions has now been published on the Ministry of Health website, as part of the refresh of legislation. “It’s good to see people have been highly engaged in this process and we’ve received lots of feedback. Death unfortunately affects everyone and it’s been really important to us to gather as much feedback as possible to ensure we get this refresh right. “We want the legislation to be fit for purpose now – but we want to ensure it’s future proofed and can adapt to changing beliefs and attitudes towards death and how we care for our deceased in New Zealand. Dr McElnay says many of the submitters have correctly pointed out how outdated the current legislation is and have focussed on the need for more environmental sustainability, cultural awareness and a timely approach to death certification. “Death certification drew some of the strongest submissions with a majority of submitters agreeing bodies should be disposed of without undue delays – we are looking at introducing a 24 hour timeframe for death certificates in most cases; and expanding the pool of certifying practitioners. “There was also interest in the idea of auditing death certification to ensure information about how people die is accurate, but also doesn’t cause delays for family and friends to farewell their loved ones.” People were also keen to see national registration of funeral directors and more information about the costs of funerals. “There was good support for removing unnecessary duplication between Councils and the Ministry of Health in managing burial grounds and crematoria, and for clarifying how burial grounds and ashes are managed.” “The Ministry recognises the importance of updating this legislation and I know how important these submissions have been to enable the Ministry to work on the new legislation.” It’s expected some of the draft legislation will be ready and presented to parliament by the end of the year.