Rise in urban Māori choosing cremation over burial, funeral industry report suggests

A newly released report exploring the New Zealand funeral industry has revealed several Māori-related insights.

The fact Māori die younger on average is well-known and a matter referenced at the outset of the 2023 New Zealand Funeral Industry Trends Report released on Thursday.

“While New Zealanders overall reach 80.9 years, the median age for Māori in 2022 was only 71 years for Māori women and 66 years for Māori men.”

A newer insight offered up by the report is an interesting trend by some urban Māori away from burial toward cremation.

The majority of Māori continue to prefer burial over cremation, despite more than two-thirds (69%) of the wider New Zealand public choosing to be cremated in 2022, the report says.

In 2022, 55% of Māori were buried in a council burial ground or urupā compared to 39% cremation.

However, the report observes that increasingly more urban Māori are opting for cremation over burial.

Cost plays role

“Māori have also traditionally preferred burial, although increasing numbers of urban Māori and the increased costs of burial and tangihanga may be driving a reduction in burials.”

With the cost of a “very modest” funeral cremation about $7,000 and a burial $10,000 on average, the report noted that Māori are disproportionately more likely to access a WINZ funeral grant, currently up to $2,445.

“The ethnic breakdown of the New Zealand population is approximately 70% European, 17% Māori, 8% Pacific peoples and 18% other. However, 35% of WINZ funeral grant claimants are Māori and 37% Pacific peoples, making them disproportionately more likely to access a WINZ funeral grant.”

The report also observed that Māori were underrepresented among the funeral directors workforce.

“The association survey also considered the ethnic mix of workers and asked about languages spoken. The survey suggests association workers currently under-represent the wider population ethnic mix with workers predominantly European and English language speaking.”