Council offers natural burials

People who wish to have a natural burial can now do so at Invercargill’s Eastern Cemetery.

A natural burial is the interment of the body in the soil in a manner that does not inhibit decomposition, but allows the body to recycle naturally.

Parks Manager Robin Pagan said the Invercargill City Council sought to accommodate people with special burial wishes. That included designating an area of the cemetery for Jewish people, and ensuring that people of the Muslim faith were laid to rest facing toward Mecca.

“This is just another way we can help to ensure people’s wishes are respected,” Mr Pagan said.

The intention of natural burials is to have as little environmental impact as possible. Embalming chemicals are not usually allowed to be used for this type of burial, in an aim to speed up the natural processes of returning the body and its nutrients to the soil, and to reduce the amount of artificial and toxic chemicals and materials.

The planting of trees or shrubs within the site of burial is common practice for natural burials and that will be the case at Eastern Cemetery. About 30 natural burials will be possible in the current designated area and further land is available nearby.
Memorials such as headstones are not permitted in the natural burial area, but there are other areas in the cemetery where loved ones may place a plaque of remembrance.

Requirements for natural burials:

  • To enable a progressive continuity of planting trees and shrubs, burial placement is sequential, and not subject to personal selection. Burial plots can be pre-purchased in this area of the cemetery but a specific plot will only be allocated in sequence by the Council at the time of burial.
  • Burials are made within the active upper soil levels at single depth, with a minimum depth cover of 800mm.
  • Caskets or coffins should be made of chemically untreated and unprocessed materials.
  • Bodies interred within the natural burial area must not be embalmed or chemically treated.
  • Any items placed with the deceased must be made from natural materials and appropriate for the natural burial area. Items made from non-biodegradable materials are not permitted.
  • No plot markers are allowed within the natural burial area. GPS (Global Positioning System) co-ordinates will be recorded at the time of burial. The co-ordinates will be entered into the cemetery register and added to the natural burial map.

For more information, contact the Parks Department by phone (03) 219 9070 or email