Ocean burials going ahead in Northland waters, angering iwi

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A Northland iwi says it is up in arms that the historic practice of ocean burials is going ahead in their waters without any consultation.

Ngati Kahui from the Doubtless Bay area in the Far North says it's against cultural protocol for bodies and even ashes to be dumped in the ocean.

Chair Anahera Herbert-Graves says she thought the practice of sea burials had been extinct since the World War 2 days and was shocked to hear some people were opting for it.

"The sea of course is literally our food pantry so we don't mix the two different elements of dead and food," Ms Herbert-Graves says. 

"It's to do with tapu and law which is about sacred elements do not mix with profane elements."

Up until October last year there were very few restrictions around sea burials but new regulations introduced by the Environmental Protection Authority limits burials to five offshore locations around the country, including one in the Far North.

Ngati Kahui says they thought the practice had been extinct since World War 2.
Source: 1 NEWS

"Burials at sea have been happening at sea for hundreds of years and it's about if someone has a strong affiliation with the sea and they want to be buried there," says EPA spokesperson Doug Jones.

The EPA says these types of burials are rare with one or two occurring each year.

Typically bodies of the dead are wrapped in a sheet and then placed in a coffin which must sink to the bottom of the water.

One undertaker told ONE News practices to ensure the bodies don't resurface including drilling holes into the coffin or using a metal cage type of coffin. Some even pour concrete into the coffin.

EPA says they meet with iwi before the regulations kicked in to discuss the matter but Ngati Kahu says they were left out.

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