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.
Infection hazards from dead bodies
Most people have little, if any, contact with a dead body, except perhaps following the death of a family member or friend. Some professions, however, do need to have regular contact – e.g., pathologists, mortuary attendants, medical and nursing staff, embalmers and funeral directors, and emergency services. The guidance below covers management of infection risks from handling deceased who may have died with an infectious disease.
Review of the Burial and Cremation Act 1964
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 now reassessing its policy work in this area. A summary of the submissions has been published.
The consultation documents and other related information can be found on the Ministry of Health website at Death, Funerals, Burial and Cremation: a Review of the Burial and Cremation Act 1964 and Related Legislation.
Burial in a special place
The Act excludes the establishment of private burial grounds. However, it does allow for a body to be buried in a special place in exceptional circumstances. This requires permission to be obtained from the Director of Public Health (under delegation from the Minister of Health).
New denominational burial grounds
Under the Act, a person can apply for permission to establish a burial ground for a specific religious denomination. This This requires permission to be obtained from the Director of Public Health (under delegation from the Minister of Health).
Disinterment involves the removal of a body from its burial place (whether a cemetery, urupā or other place of burial). Such removals are unlawful unless a licence has been granted by the Director of Public Health (under delegation from the Minister of Health). The two guidelines below cover routine disinterment applications and situations where urgent disinterments are needed (eg, a flood has washed out a grave site).
Births, Deaths and Marriages (BDM) registers and maintains New Zealand birth, death, marriage, civil union and name change information, and issues certificates and printouts.
This website will give you a general idea of what you can expect to happen when a death is referred to a coroner.
The digital tool to securely complete and view the Medical Certificate of Cause of Death, Cremation and Coroner Forms
Find information about what to do, and services that might be available to you, following the death of a loved one.
The official Burial and Cremation Act 1964.
The official Coroners Act 2006
The official legislation for cremation in New Zealand.