What are Green Burials, and are they the same as Eco Burials?

There are a number of different terms: “Eco-burial”, “Natural burial”, and “Green burial” that are used to mean different things…

An “Eco-burial” is a general term for burial that is more environmentally friendly than the usual burial process in New Zealand.

A “Natural burial” is an Eco-burial where there is a shallow plot at a depth within the living soil layer, the deceased is not embalmed, is dressed in natural, biodegradable materials, and the coffin or shroud is also biodegradable and non-toxic. Plots are filled with living soil, and within a year are over-planted with native trees and shrubs, so the whole area will eventually resemble regenerated forest.

A “Green burial” is the term used by the Christchurch City Council for a burial in a designated area within an existing Council cemetery, where most of the Natural burial aspects are included.

This Diamond Harbour Green Burials site was opened in November 2017, and was the first green burials area to be opened in the greater Christchurch area. The Diamond Harbour community, led by Ann Thornton, engaged with the Christchurch City Council over many years to make this a reality. The Council cemeteries team created a wonderful space for green burials here, with the first area of 6 plots planted out in October 2020, and looking beautiful now 🙂 

Sadly, Ann passed away in June 2023. But fittingly, she now rests beside her husband in the green burials area, near a stone birdbath that bears a plaque in her honour. 

The available space for green burials at Diamond Harbour is relatively small, so it is currently restricted to people from the area or with a strong connection to the area. Since December 2019 Christchurch has been served by a much larger green burial area at the Yaldhurst cemetery. This is open to all residents of greater Christchurch. 

Here’s a few things to note about Green burials at the Diamond Harbour Cemetery:

There is no pre-purchasing of plots allowed.

The CCC Cemeteries Handbook states that the minimum cover above the casket is to be 800mm. So the casket will be well below the living soil layer at the cemetery: it appears to be in amongst a dense clay layer. If you are contemplating a green burial here, you may wish to talk to the CCC Cemeteries administrator about whether there are any options when re-filling the plot.

For more details about the CCC Green burial requirements, take a look at the Cemeteries Handbook, downloadable from the CCC website, or try this link:


See below for links to more information:

Conversations on death and dying are held in the Heathcote Community Centre on the 2nd Saturday of the month 9.30 till 11am. Koha for rental of the venue. All welcome.

If you have questions, these are the people to contact:

John Allen at or 021 365 966 for advice on the process of preparation for a green burial. John can also perform ceremonies and burial events.

Cemeteries Administrator:  or 03 941 8999 for questions about the details of  green burials in the greater Christchurch area, or for pre-booking a plot, or arranging a green burial.

Eric Banks, Senior Network Planner, Parks Unit:  or 03 941 8999, for general enquiries or comments about green burials in CCC cemeteries.

Veronika Gabel or 021 159 6482, or Joy McLeod for general questions or comments about the Diamond Harbour green burials site.

If you have any concerns or questions about the Diamond Harbour green burials site that you would like raised, you can contact the Diamond Harbour Community Association Secretary (Christine) directly:  or alternatively, you can contact Joy McLeod, who is happy to raise the matter at the next DHCA meeting:

Links to other useful websites:    (for natural caskets)     (a great resource for dyi funerals)

If you have any other questions feel free to contact me:

Mark Watson