Hamilton Council staff are preparing an area at the rear of the Newstead cemetery for natural burials after the adoption of the Cemeteries and Crematoriums Bylaw last year, allowing 'green' burials at Hamilton Park Cemetery.
Although the area isn't expected to be open until the end of the year, there have already been inquiries from funeral directors, passing on expressions of interest from families.
Councillor Daphne Bell said she'd been "pleasantly surprised" by the public's positive response to the concept. "What appeals to me is the environmental aspect. It won't need to be mown and people see their bodies as helping to grow plants. Nor are there the emissions that come with cremation."
Stipulations for the natural burial area include no embalming of the deceased; caskets must be made of biodegradable, untreated material such as pine, macrocarpa, wicker or willow; casket linings and fittings and all items in the casket must be biodegradable.
Burials will be shallower than normal and identified initially by a biodegradable marker. A cemetery tracking system will be used to find burial plots once the area has returned to natural vegetation.
Council needs to complete some infrastructure works, including reading and drainage, before the area can be opened up.
The area will be around 50x9m, which will allow for about 140 burial plots. Daphne Bell expects the area to satisfy demand for around 10 years and says the area can easily be expanded as demand grows.
The plot fee will be the same as that for conventional burial plots.