About the act

The Burial and Cremation Act 1964 requires that a medical practitioner or nurse practitioner must first certify the cause of death before a body can be buried or cremated. If a health practitioner is unable to certify the cause of death then a coroner must authorise the burial or cremation.


Medical certificates and coroners’ reports are the main source of cause of death information from which underlying cause-of-death statistics are collated. These statistics are recognised as an important objective measure of the health status of the population, forming health policy, monitoring the effectiveness of cancer screening, immunisations and other health programmes and for comparing New Zealand cause of death statistics with those from other countries.

Public consultation on proposed options for modernising New Zealand's legislation relating to death, burial, cremation and funerals closed on 31 October 2020 and the Ministry of Health is actively progressing this policy review. A summary of the submissions has been published.


The consultation documents and other related information can be found at Death, Funerals, Burial and Cremation: a Review of the Burial and Cremation Act 1964 and Related Legislation.