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Burial cost hike will leave families in the lurch

A Blenheim funeral director is warning a decision to raise cemetery fees will leave some families struggling.

Cloudy Bay funeral director Alan Walker from Blenheim says some people will have no choice but to choose cremation as burial costs spiral.

He has questioned while council feel the need to “generate money” from the price hike.

Plans to increase fees were rubber-stamped by Marlborough District Council last week.

The increases will be staggered over five years to reduce the financial burden on families.

“Ultimately, if someone has little money, they will choose cremation over burial.

“In effect it could take away people’s right to choose,” he says.

In a report to the council’s asset and services committee earlier this week, Linda Craighead says the proposal was meet with some resistance.

“The Saturday and after-hours fee were considered excessive; the increased fees will promote cremation rather than burial thereby removing a choice for families,” she says.

As a result, a special council hearing in April opted instead to keep the Saturday fee the same – an extra $370 on top of plot and interment fees.

But Alan says the situation will put more pressure on funeral directors to help families find a solution.

“If council feel they have to generate money through fees then the staggered approach is best.

“But for families that are very limited in means it means we can’t help provide a solution as much as before.

“People can make caskets themselves, but they can’t get out there and dig a hole,” he says.

Alan says a cremation will cost about $3000, compared to burial costs of almost double that.

A government grant of $2093 is available to some people through Work and Income New Zealand.

“We are part of the solution and will try to help but if a family have no money, their only option is to declare themselves a pauper and use a pauper’s grave.

“The council will provide the plot but there will be no grave marker,” he says.

A recent bylaw allowing people to pre purchase their own burial plots puts more pressure on council’s planned programme of vital restoration works.

New burial beams are being built in most of the region’s cemeteries to cope with the extra demand.

Council manages eight cemeteries across Marlborough at Ward (Flaxbourne), Seddon (Awatere), Omaka, Fairhall, Tua Marina, Picton, Havelock and Rai Valley.

Council staff are working on drafting a Cemeteries Handbook – Urapa Pukpuka, that will be finished soon.

The guide has been drawn-up to as a helpful too bereaved families or those wanting to plan for their cemetery needs.

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