Why did you review the Cemeteries Management Plan?

    The existing 2003 Cemeteries Management Plan was overdue for review. Our two working cemeteries are both at critical points. 

    Karori Cemetery has effectively reached its capacity and its future management needs to be planned. Mākara Cemetery will be reaching its capacity for various types of interment from 2038 and some denominational areas will reach capacity sooner. 

    We need to plan ahead to ensure adequate future capacity. We also wanted to check that we are providing for changing community needs and expectations of cemeteries. As such, we invited participation from a wide range of religious,  cultural and community groups during the consultation process.

    Why does Wellington City Council manage cemeteries?

    Under the Burials and Cremations Act, the Council must provide for burials, manage cemeteries and keep cemetery records. 

    Under the Local Government Act, it is also required to periodically assess provision of cemetery and cremation services, including the current and future demand and the quality of services.

    What cemetery services does Wellington City Council provide?

    The Council provides and manages land and infrastructure for cemetery purposes. It also provides and maintains built infrastructure including roads and paths, depot buildings, public toilets, seating and other amenity structures. At Karori Cemetery infrastructure also includes a crematorium, two chapels and an office. The green infrastructure includes trees, lawns and amenity planting.

    Our cemetery staff provide information and advice, manage the paperwork, handle bookings and carry out burials and cremations. Record keeping is a legislative requirement. General enquiries about historic cemetery records are increasing.

    What cemeteries does the plan cover and where are they?

    The plan covers the management of Tawa, Karori and Mākara Cemeteries (see Map of Wellington City Council Cemeteries under 'Documents').

    Tawa Cemetery is a closed historic cemetery. 

    Mākara Cemetery is the where most burials occur as Karori Cemetery is nearly full. 

    Bolton Street Cemetery, also shown on the map, is another closed cemetery. It is managed separately under the Botanic Gardens of Wellington Management Plan

    How did you consult on the plan?

    July 2020 – Informal engagement with key stakeholders and the wider community. We received 155 submissions, and findings were used to inform the development of the draft plan. 

    November/December 2020 – Draft plan was open for formal consultation. We received 629 submissions, and feedback indicates that it successfully addressed most of the issues and concerns raised during the informal consultation. 

    February 2021 - Oral submissions on the draft plan. 

    22 June 2021 – Final plan goes before the Social, Cultural and Economic Committee for approval. 

    Mid-July 2021  – Final plan released to the public.


    What's changed since the last plan?

    The general intent has not changed significantly but the plan has been restructured and substantially rewritten for more clarity. The new structure sets out a vision, key values, goals, objectives and policies for Tawa, Karori and Mākara cemeteries; followed by policies specific to each cemetery. There is a new rules section and updated implementation section. 

    The priority areas during the several years will be on long-term planning – to provide adequate cemetery capacity in the future and to assess the priorities for managing the heritage and landscapes. Archaeological, heritage conservation, landscape management and specific visitor needs will be assessed, and master plans developed with a prioritised programme of work to guide future funding decisions. We will also be working towards a closer partnership with mana whenua in managing urupā and practicing tikanga Māori in our cemeteries.

    How will you meet future demand for cemetery space?

    Although the Council holds 84 hectares of undeveloped land for cemetery purposes at Mākara, most of it is unsuitable due to steep gradients, land instability or flooding risk.  This means we will need to acquire land to provide for future demand, and we are currently looking into options and locations.

    Who is responsible for the upkeep of the cemeteries?

    Families are responsible for maintaining graves and plots, and the Council is responsible for all other maintenance. 

    We have received a lot of feedback from people asking about the best way to care for their loved ones’ graves, and we will be preparing a brochure on how to do this.

    What happens to graves when families no longer maintain them?

    Over time, gravesites tend to no longer be maintained by families and descendants. 

    Collectively, the cemeteries contain an important part of the city’s historic heritage. Some mausoleums, monuments and headstones are of particular significance. These features can deteriorate over time and can be damaged by such factors as vandalism and tree growth.

    While the Council is not, strictly speaking, responsible for the long-term maintenance of graves, some repair and restoration work is carried out, mainly for safety reasons. Such work is expensive, so it needs to be prioritised according to heritage conservation criteria and budget.

    What's the Council's position on re-using graves?

    The review has enabled us to look at options for providing for a wide range of views and beliefs.

    With this in mind, we’ll continue to offer graves to purchase in perpetuity (forever), but we’ll also look at offering non-perpetual graves in a designated area as an additional option for new plots in the future. 

    We realise many people feel re-using graves is never appropriate, and want to provide reassurance on two things. First, existing graves that were purchased in perpetuity will remain and won’t be re-used. Second, no-one will be forced to purchase non-perpetual graves - it would be strictly providing an option for those who want it. 

    If we decide to offer the non-perpetual option, people could choose to use a grave for an agreed time period. At the end of that time, the family would have the option to give back the plot or to continue for a further agreed period of time by paying a fee.

    When graves are re-used, what happens to the remains of the previous occupant?

    The nature and amount of the remains varies greatly, depending on the length of time since the burial, depth and type of burial. Typically, remains are put in an urn box and returned to the family. Some families choose to cremate any remaining bones. The options and process for re-using future graves in Wellington’s cemeteries is still to be determined. 

    What decorations are allowed on graves?

    We would like people to use more environmentally-sustainable alternatives to plastic where possible and will look into ways to make these more available. 

    We recognise that placing tributes and decorations is an important way for people to pay their respects and remember their loved ones. People are welcome to put decorations on headstones and the concrete base, as long as they are securely attached. If decorations blow away, they can create rubbish and pollute nearby streams.

     Items placed on lawns will be removed as they make maintenance and access difficult.  Our staff will hold removed items for a period, and try to contact families so they can reclaim these items.

    What if I need help getting around your cemeteries?

    Some parts of our cemeteries are a bit steep and some visitors may find it difficult to get around. Our cemetery staff are available to help if needed. 

    We are also happy to help with any other questions or concerns. Visitors are welcome to come and see us at the office at Karori Cemetery, 76 Old Karori Road. We are also available on 04 476 6109 or email: cemeteries@wcc.govt.nz    

    More info is available at: www.wellington.govt.nz/cemeteries

    How can I find out where a grave is located?

    We have an online directory where people can search for names of people buried at Mākara Cemetery and locate the plot:  https://wcc.maps.arcgis.com/apps/webappviewer/index.html?id=227cc182656c4bc78a699b969bd30dcf

    We are working towards the same kind of search at Karori Cemetery too but, in the meantime, general searches can be made here:  https://wellington.govt.nz/cemeteries/cemetery-search-and-plot-locater/search-cemetery-records

    A new Cemeteries Management System is being completed later in 2021 which will streamline our cemetery services booking system and make cemetery information easier to find, including cemetery records for those interested in family history.

    What about visiting Wellington's cemeteries for recreation?

    Cemeteries are increasingly becoming open spaces that people like to visit for the landscape, heritage, recreation and natural values. 

    Karori Cemetery, for instance, is popular for walking, dog walking, picnicking and sitting, exploring local history, cycling and even geocaching. 

    This more diverse use is consistent with wider national and international trends towards managing cemeteries as multi-use open spaces where a number of activities can take place provided that a respectful atmosphere for the bereaved is maintained.  More diverse use requires management to avoid or minimise inappropriate behaviour but also generates more community interest and a desire to help look after the cemeteries.  For instance, the Friends of Karori Cemetery work with us and undertake various volunteer activities.


    What factors are important to landscape management at the cemeteries?

    Mākara and Karori cemeteries cover a varied range of environments including steep land, gullies and water courses as well as land developed for cemetery use. There is a variety of vegetation, including exotic, native and horticultural.  

    The layout, character and maintenance of the cemeteries is an important aspect of management, as it affects amenity values for visitors and, potentially, the natural environment such as water quality and wildlife habitat. 

    A particular issue in cemeteries is the rubbish and plastic pollution arising from graveside decorations, which degrade over time.

    What will happen to Karori Cemetery once it is full?

    On reaching full capacity, Karori Cemetery will be closed. Closure would mean no burials in new plots, although burials in existing family plots would generally still be possible. 

    The crematorium will continue to operate, and the chapels would still be available for funeral services. 

    Once closed, the cemetery will be made an historic reserve under the Reserves Act. We will also seek to have the heritage recognised in other ways, such as under the district plan or Heritage New Zealand List/Rārangi Kōrero. 

    The work associated with heritage protection, conservation, landscape management and interpretation will need to be assessed, prioritised and costed to enable a long-term funding and implementation programme to be planned. For instance, very few graves can be restored with current resources.

    Will there be any changes for cyclists using Wellington's cemeteries?

    Yes, under the new management plan, the cemeteries are closed to cycling and mountain biking except on the paved vehicle roadways and car park areas and on any tracks that are clearly signposted for cycling use. 

    A speed limit of 10 km/hr has been introduced on paved roadways and car parks, which will apply to all motorised vehicles, cycles and e-bikes. The restricted bike access and new speed limit will help to protect off-road cemetery structures from damage and ensure the safety of all people visiting our cemeteries.

    Are you doing any upgrades to the chapels at Karori Cemetery?

    Yes – we are currently refurbishing the large chapel at Karori Cemetery, which accommodates larger groups. The courtyard upgrade and interior and exterior painting is almost complete. 

    We will make other improvements over time. The toilet facilities will be upgraded, and we will be installing a kitchenette, which will be helpful for a cup of tea after funerals and for those with young children.

    Does the Council arrange funerals?

    No. Funerals are usually organised by funeral directors, although families can also arrange their own funerals. 

    Our cemetery staff assist with the official paperwork and chapel hire, burial and cremation bookings. They are also responsible for the burials and cremations at funerals. Later, they can assist with interring or scattering ashes and advising on how to order memorial headstones or plaques. 

    I’d like to know more about Mākara Cemetery

    Makara Cemetery is located on the edge of Mākara Village. It covers 10 hectares of a much larger 84-hectare site, most of which is unsuitable for cemetery use. 

    The first burial was in 1965 and there are now 12,600 interments. Within the cemetery 18 areas are designated for particular groups, including religious denominations, military service personnel, and Ngā Iwi o te Motu (urupa). 

    Mākara Cemetery reached 54% of its capacity in 2018.

    Find out more about Mākara Cemetery at the Wellington City Council website.

    I'd like to know more about Karori Cemetery

    Karori Cemetery covers 35.5 hectares. The first burial was in 1891 and there are some 86,400 interments.

    The cemetery is significant for its heritage. Monuments and gravesites mark the lives of prominent people and of historically important events such as the 1918 flu epidemic and the 1953 Tangiwai disaster. Heritage New Zealand lists one category 1 and two category 2 historic buildings in the cemetery. 

    The cemetery is also increasingly popular as a recreational area and as an historic attraction to special interest and tour groups. It has reached capacity for new burials (i.e. burials other than in existing family plots) and has a limited amount of space remaining for ash plots.

    Find out more about Karori Cemetery at the Wellington City Council website.

    I'd like to know more about Tawa Cemetery

    Tawa Cemetery is located on Main Road, Tawa (formerly Porirua Road). It was established in 1861 when Edward Gibbon Wakefield gifted 0.61 hectares to the Anglican Church. 

    A small wooden church, St Peter’s, was built on the site in 1866 and the first burials took place in 1867. The church was moved to Porirua in 1902 and renamed St Anne’s. 

    The last burial was in 1952 and the cemetery was closed in 1978, a year after the Tawa Borough Council took it over. The cemetery now occupies 0.1 hectares, contains about 50 graves and was made an historic reserve in 2013. 

    Find out more about Tawa Cemetery at the Wellington City Council website.