What a great turnout for the first ever open day at Purewa Cemetery! Thanks to all who attended and especially Clifton Thomson and his team from Purewa who organised such a wonderfully informative day.
The day began at 10am and there were guided tours of the cemetery grounds at 11am and 12.30pm.
Throughout the day the Purewa team was available to answer questions about funerals and interment, and there were displays of caskets and hearses.
A large crowd gathered for the chapel and crematorium tour at 2pm. We heard about the history of the cemetery and had a fascinating introduction to the crematorium.
Some interesting things we learned from the day:
- The first burial at Purewa was in 1885
- A lot of the older graves are unmarked – especially if the family could not afford to pay. There is currently a project to identify as many people buried here as possible
- The crematorium was added in 1957
- The new remembrance lounge will be completed this year and allow two ceremonies and receptions to be held at once. See more at New remembrance lounge for Purewa Cemetery (30 November 2015)
- To date, there have been 100,000 cremations and 50,000 burials at Purewa
- Currently there are about 80% cremations vs 20% burials – perhaps due to expense as it is around $7,000 to bury a loved one vs $600 to cremate
- Families are welcome in the cremation room to watch a casket go into the cremator
- There are two cremators at Purewa and a very sophisticated computer to control them
- There is a rigorous process behind cremations: two doctors with 5+ years experience must authorise a body to be cremated, and staff must ensure paperwork is completed at all stages of the process
- The cremation process is environmentally-friendly – and it must be since there are houses nearby. After initial cremation at 750C, a second chamber at 850C burns off smoke. All that is released into the atmosphere is vapour
- Implants such as hip and knee joints can be cremated and family can request them back (we heard of a door knocker being fashioned with an old implant!)
- Pacemakers cannot go into a cremator as they can cause it to blow up!
- Money from metal from unclaimed implants are donated to charity as is NZ policy.