Most of us have little or no experience arranging a funeral, or given much thought about how we would like it to reflect the life that’s lost. This guide is an upfront and honest look at all the decisions that come into play when someone dies .It busts open many of the beliefs that hold us back and inspires us to create a truly great goodbye.




It’s one of the first questions we get asked when someone has died. Where is the funeral? And when will it be? Nothing sets the

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When it comes to creating a Great Goodbye, the only music that’s inappropriate are sounds that have nothing to do with the life of the

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Funeral flowers were originally used in pre-refrigeration era use to mask odours. Alongside scented candles and incense, flowers were selected for the strength of their

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Food and beverages

As people approach end of life celebrations with more thought, the food and beverages being served are becoming an increasingly important element in the overall

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Photos and Video

Photo and video montages have become a hallmark of contemporary funerals, They bring a special element to the service, and provide a moment for reflection

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While few decide to cremate or bury based on environmental criteria, it is worth noting that natural or no embalming fluids, along with an eco-friendlier casket, free of resins, glues and varnishes, can make both cremation and burial kinder to the planet than traditional approaches.  Cremation uses more energy than burial and results in more green-house gas emissions.


A body can be buried in a public burial ground like a cemetery, a private burial ground like a church or urupa (Maori burial ground), at sea, or in special circumstances, at home.

If not already pre-arranged, you will need to purchase a plot in the cemetery or burial ground of your choice. You will also have to pay an internment fee which covers the cost of digging the grave and ongoing maintenance. Finally, there is the purchase of a memorial or headstone. Burial plots vary from district to district. Check with your local council.

If agreement can’t be reached about where to bury, or whether to bury or cremate, the person with the legal power to make such decisions will be the executor named in the deceased’s will. If there isn’t a will, or the will is invalid or did not name an executor then this decision-making power usually lies instead with the closest family member as the person with the best legal claim. There is a legal order of priority for who is considered closest, starting with spouse or partner, followed by children, parents and so forth.

There is growing public interest in natural or eco-burials. There are no national standards to govern natural burials but they typically involve the burial of an un-embalmed body in a bio-degradable casket or shroud in a relatively shallow plot to promote rapid aerobic decomposition of the body. In most cases the burial sites are marked by plantings rather than headstones.

A national survey found that approximately one third of New Zealanders would opt for a natural burial if it were available to them. A number of local authorities are planning to establish natural burial sites in response to growing interest. 

Auckland’s Waikumete cemetery offers a natural burial area.


When a death occurs overseas you will need to contact the nearest NZ Embassy or Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade office. They will guide you through the options and costs for local services and help you find a funeral director in the area. The family are responsible for all costs. There are no customs restrictions to bring ashes back to NZ. There are some restrictions to bringing a body back to NZ, and you will need to work with a NZ funeral director to make arrangements. Again, the costs will be borne by the family.

Yes, you can. If you meet the criteria you may be eligible for a funeral grant from WINZ of $2050. Contact WINZ on 0800 559 009 or call the Great Goodbyes support line.

If the death was the result of an accident or injury covered by ACC, you may be entitled to financial support. You can apply whenever you feel comfortable – there is no time limit. ACC can pay the funeral director or reimburse you. You will need to complete an ACC21 form.

New Zealand Veteran Affairs may also assist with funeral costs if certain qualifying conditions are met. The veteran need not be living in NZ at the time of death but must have qualifying service. If death isn’t service related Veteran Affairs may still help with funeral costs if certain conditions are met. Please visit the Veteran Affairs website for assistance.

A Medical Certificate of Cause of Death ( MCCD) is a form completed by a health professional that states the cause of a person’s death. A MCCD is legally required before a body is buried or cremated, unless the death is being dealt with by a coroner. There is often a cost for a MCCD.

A death needs to be registered with Births, Deaths and Marriages within 3 working days of burial or cremation. It’s free to register the death.

Anyone, not just a funeral director, can organise the burial or cremation of a body. You will need to complete an application to bury or application to cremate. The Medical Certificate of Cause of Death (MCCD) needs to be taken to the local council or crematorium.

A further medical form, the Certificate of Medical Practitioner is required. This new form needs to be completed by the doctor who saw and identified the body after death for them to complete and sign. This form gives more information about the circumstances of the death.

If you are using a Funeral Professional, they will work with the relevant authorities and people to complete the necessary paperwork and register the death. The cost this is covered by the funeral professionals service fee..

If you are not using a funeral director you can check the requirements here

A funeral director role is one of organiser. They can take care of every detail, or you may choose to take on some aspects yourself. Most funeral director services include:

1. Liaising with authorities and registering the death.

2. Transporting the person’s body.

3. Meeting with whanau to understand their wishes.

4. Embalming, care and presentation of the body.

5. Organising burial or cremation.

6. Arranging the funeral service and any function afterwards.

7. Arranging flowers.