COVID-19: Cremation regulations

Guidance for when cremations are permitted to be carried out without complying with regulation 7 of the Cremation Regulations 1973.

Before a body can be cremated

The Cremation Regulations 1973 require the permission of a medical referee before a body can be cremated. Under regulation 7 of the Regulations, a medical referee cannot permit any cremation unless a Cremation Certificate is issued by a certifying practitioner which requires the medical or nurse practitioner to see and identify the body. This creates risk of COVID-19 infection for practitioners and facility operators, as well as communities of vulnerable people.

Exemptions from Regulation 7

The Minister of Health has authorised medical referees to permit cremations to be carried out for the duration of the Epidemic Preparedness (COVID-19) Notice 2020, without complying with regulation 7 of the Cremation Regulations 1973.

This authorisation applies in rest homes, residential care facilities, and other long-term in-patient facilities where the medical history and current conditions of the deceased are known by the medical or nurse practitioner. It does not apply to hospitals or hospices.

It is the Ministry of Health's expectation that certifying practitioners will view the tūpāpaku (deceased person) outside of the residential facility (for example, at a funeral home), except where completion of a Cremation Certificate by a certifying practitioner would increase the risk of transmission of COVID-19. Where viewing outside of the facility is not possible is not possible, the funeral director must confirm whether there is a biomechanical aid present in the body (for example, by completing the certificate developed by the New Zealand Embalmers' Association Incorporated).

Advice from a trusted source

Under this authorisation a medical referee must receive advice from a trusted source who has a reasonable level of assurance of the cause of death to verify the identity of the deceased and that the deceased died of natural causes, in lieu of a certifying practitioner providing a Cremation Certificate.

Certifying practitioners must provide the medical referee with the details of a trusted source who can confirm the identity of the deceased in writing. Medical referees will have discretion in determining who constitutes a trusted source but are not required to validate the credentials of a trusted source. Medical referees must check that the identity, contact details and position of the trusted source have been recorded.

Funeral directors may collect details of the trusted source who identifies the deceased to the funeral director, using the Funeral Directors Association of New Zealand standard form.

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