Over Purewa Cemetery’s 128 year history, many families bought burial plots in advance, with a Licence of Right to Burial for family members. For many decades these licences were held in perpetuity – once bought, the plot would remain theirs as the rightful resting place for future generations.
However, in 1964 the NZ Government of the day passed new legislation restricting exclusive rights for burial to 60 years. The new law was passed as it became increasingly apparent that New Zealanders were becoming more mobile in their places of domicile. Thousands of plots throughout New Zealand were lying unused, and unlikely to be used, because families had moved away or were simply unaware that a predecessor had made this provision. Purewa was no exception.
Purewa Cemetery general manager Clifton Thomson says in the early 1960s there was wide recognition that the legislation needed to be changed.
‘‘Many cemeteries in New Zealand were coming to full capacity, yet in some cases as much as 50 percent of the land for burial was denoted as ‘reserved’. Previous generations had thought it important to keep whanau together, but new generations often chose to build their lives elsewhere.’’
The Burial and Cremation Act 1964 states that ‘‘Any exclusive right to burial, whether sold before or after the commencement of this Act, shall lapse if, at any time after the sale, sixty years pass without a burial taking place in that part of the Cemetery or in that vault, brick grave, or place of burial which is the subject of such exclusive right.’’
Mr Thomson says that while this would not trouble the majority of people, there had been incidents when families assuming a right found subsequently that it had expired. Old records contained little information, and there was no way to contact the many descendants born since.
He advises anyone who believes that a predecessor may have reserved a burial plot should contact the Purewa Administration for clarification.
Purewa Cemetery is the final resting place for more than 45,000 men, women and children and today offers a wide range of options for burial sites and memorials, including more options for the interring and memorialisation of ashes than anywhere in New Zealand.