History of Cemeteries


Cemeteries are defined as a place set apart for burial or interment, a graveyard.

The word cemetery is derived from the Greek word koiman which means to put to sleep.

In New Zealand cemeteries evolved from individual burial places on farms or near homes of early settlers to those associated with churches. Now burials in church yards are the exception rather than the rule with most (although not all) cemeteries operated by local Councils.

Maori may choose to be buried in a Council cemetery or their own urupa, such as the one at Arowhenua.

The style of burial plot has also changed over the years from traditional monument cemeteries and graves with concrete tops and wrought iron balustrades to memorial parks with rows of back to back headstones and mown grass between them.

Originally interments were burials. Now there is an increasing trend towards cremations with ashes being interred in cemeteries. In another twist there is also some interest in natural burials without embalming and using biodegradable caskets or shrouds.

Cemeteries perform a role in acknowledging respect to the dead and also to fulfil the need to mark the actual place of burial.

For those who visit cemeteries and remember their loved ones a place for quiet reflection with pleasant surroundings is appreciated.

Last updated: 24 Feb 2021