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 will the plan cover and where are they?

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

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

    Tawa Cemetery is a closed historic cemetery. 

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

    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. 

    Why is the Cemeteries Management Plan being reviewed?

    The existing 2003 Cemetery Management Plan is 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 want to check that we are providing for changing community needs and expectations of cemeteries.

    What will the review involve?

    As well as assessing functional and operational requirements, the review will take account of wider trends in cemetery management and changing community needs and expectations.

    What will happen to Karori Cemetery once it is full?

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

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

    Once closed, the cemetery could be made an historic reserve under the Reserves Act and, perhaps, managed as a heritage park. The heritage could potentially be recognised in other ways, too, such as under the district plan or Heritage New Zealand list. 

    The issues and costs associated with heritage protection, conservation and interpretation will need to be considered. For instance, very few graves can be restored with current resources. 

    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.

    Why can’t Mākara Cemetery expand?

    The Council holds 84 hectares of land for cemetery purposes at Mākara but most of the undeveloped land is unsuitable due to steep gradients, land instability or flooding risk. 

    Therefore, the Council will need to acquire land to provide for future demand and consider the use of surplus land.

    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.

    What about visiting Wellington's cemeteries for recreation?

    Cemeteries are increasingly becoming open spaces that people like to visit for their landscape amenity, heritage, recreation and ecological 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. 

    The provision of appropriate play space within cemeteries to improve children’s experience of cemetery visits is an example. More diverse use requires management to avoid or minimise inappropriate behaviour.

    Where can I found out more about Wellington City Council’s cemeteries?

    Please visit the Wellington City Council website for more information.

    How can I find out where my family members are buried?

    Please visit the Wellington City Council website for more information.

    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. 

    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 happens to graves when families no longer maintain them?

    Over time, gravesites tend to no longer be maintained by families and descendants. Responsibility for maintenance then falls to the Council. 

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

    Repair and restoration is currently prioritised by criteria including health and safety and historical significance. The criteria and associated costs will be considered in the review.

    Will you be hearing oral submissions for this review?

    We will not be hearing oral submissions during the first stage, but there will be opportunities during the formal engagement.