How Cemeteries Operate.

By Adam and Connor.

  1. When we went to the Cemetery we noticed the big and tall graves, and some had fences around them.
  2. This made us wonder what the rules about cemeteries were.
  3. We found out that the cemetery is looked after by the Waitaki District Council, so we emailed some questions to Jan-Maree Atkinson, a Parks Officer for the WDC. We also found some information from Matt King, who made new gates for the cemetery last year, for the Herbert Heritage group.

Interview with Jan-Maree Atkinson:


How many cemeteries are there in North Otago?

There are about 15 cemeteries in the Waitaki district. Two of these are closed and no more burials can take place in them. Of the other 13, the Waitaki District Council manages and maintains 11 (this includes the Otepopo Cemetery) and 2 are managed by trusts.

Do graves have to be a certain size?

Yes however, it varies a bit between some cemeteries in the district.

Do gravestones have to be a certain size?

Yes they do now. In Waitaki they are to be no taller than 1m and also have to be made of permanent material such as marble or granite. This is so they do not erode and remain stable and safe.


Do many people have family plots these days?

Not as many. Families now days are often not living in the same district.

How many people can you have in one grave?

Generally only 2 bodies in a single plot, however you can have several ash interments.

What are the rules about how you can bury someone?

Burials need to be carried out by a sexton or other persons approved by Council. Bodies or ashes must be in approved coffins or containers and buried to certain depths.

Do you have to get permission to put fences around them?

Yes. Approval must be sought from the Council to erect anything including headstones.


Who mows the lawns and looks after the cemetery?

The Council has a contract with Whitestone Ltd to carry out the maintenance of the cemetery grounds and to carry out burials.

Some old graves are unmarked. Why is that?

Maybe families couldn't afford headstones? Maybe graves were only marked with wooden crosses or the likes and these have deteriorated over time?