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Strict new coronavirus rules challenging ways people carry out funerals, tangihanga

Strict new rules are challenging the way we carry out funerals and tangihanga.

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Marae, funeral directors and grieving whānau are all coming to terms with the new rules. Source: 1 NEWS

The Ministry of Health released specific guidelines to Māori interest groups in the last few days which outline the stark choices for whānau in lieu of tangihanga, which are banned.

In an interview with 1 NEWS, Deputy Director-General of Health John Whaanga said "the options available for tūpāpaku for our deceased are either: immediate burial or cremation, or refrigeration".

Funeral directors are warning all families who lose someone that when they come to collect a body it may be the last time they’ll have contact with a loved one.

Francis Tipene from Tipene Funerals says he’s found that a tough message to deliver.

“I close my eyes and listen to the crying and the grief and at the same time whilst listening I’ve got to find in my heart to know that this is for the safety of all of us," he said.

The guidelines say there will be no viewings or karakia at the funeral homes, although one whānau member might be allowed to go to the funeral home to help with arrangements.

Mr Tipene is asking that number be increased to two family members, something the Ministry of Health is considering.

Long trips from cities to rural marae for burial have been ruled out and in Kawhia, eight marae are limiting access to their gravesites to just two people.

Waipapa Marae’s Cathrine Holland said it was a decision that all of her relations struggled with, but the impact of mass gatherings could be catastrophic.

She also expected cremations for Māori across the country to increase.

“A really distressing example recently of one of our uncles who died on Wednesday of this week. He was taken from where he died straight to the crematorium. The family nominated two people who would accompany him and who did the formalities.”

Gary Taylor, from the Funeral Directors Association of New Zealand, said those left behind to grieve would experience additional anguish because of the extraordinary circumstances.

“All of those things are affected by us not being able to gather and celebrate the lives of the people we love at the times we need to,” he said.