Ashes in Christchurch

The Press reports:

A cultural clash over scattering of human ashes has left split and a new bylaw in limbo.

Despite months of deliberations, councillors still cannot agree whether the Draft 2014 Parks and Reserves Bylaw should include a provision allowing human ashes to be interred or scattered in parks and reserves.

Local Maori are against the practice for cultural reasons, but a council hearings panel decided it was unwilling to impose any blanket restrictions on the scattering of human ashes without first doing wider public consultation.

The panel brought a report to Thursday’s council meeting that recommended the council pass the bylaw with the omission of the clauses relating to the scattering of ashes.

That would mean the status quo would continue to apply and people would be able to scatter or bury ashes in any public place, apart from the Botanic Gardens, until the council had time to consider the matter further.

Good. So long as it is done in a way that doesn’t interfere with other users of parks (ie don’t sprinkle ashes in the middle of someone’s picnic), people should be at liberty to let cremated loved ones be scattered in a park.

Mahaanui Kurataiao (MKT), the company that acts on behalf of six runanga within Christchurch, had formally submitted the council should ban the scattering of ashes in parks and reserves.

In subsequent talks with the council, it acknowledged it was not practicable but said, as a minimum, the practice should be restricted to identified locations within council-controlled parks and reserves and people encouraged to bury ashes rather than scatter them to the wind.

If members of the six runanga don’t wish to scatter ashes, then they shouldn’t. But their religious beliefs should not be imposed on others.

Andrew Turner and the other People’s Choice councillors said they were unprepared to allow the status quo to continue when MKT had raised such significant cultural concerns about human ashes being scattered in parks.

“I’m not happy for this bylaw to be approved with this significant matter still unresolved,” Turner said.

“To approve the bylaw and then signal we are looking to change it quite soon … is quite absurd.”

As the hearings panel had already been instructed once to go back and reconsider the bylaw as it related to the scattering of ashes, there was no point asking it to revisit the matter again, Turner said.

The best option was to refer it to the full council for a decision.

The Council should follow the advice of the panel, and not impose the religious beliefs of some residents on all residents. The harm it causes to those who can’t farewell their loved ones in they way they wish is much greater than any perceived harm by those who disagree with the practice.

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