Funerals and tangihanga

Advice about what to do when someone dies and how to organise their funeral or tangihanga.

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What to do when someone dies

If someone in your whānau dies:

  1. Contact the health provider or doctor of the person who has died.
  2. Contact a local funeral director who will help you organise next steps.

If the person has died from:

  • an unknown cause, a post-mortem will need to happen. Their health provider will help you in the first instance, and the Police may be contacted
  • a known health issue, their health provider will talk to the funeral director when you've appointed one — the funeral director will pass on this information
  • COVID-19, their health provider will support you with information on what to do next.

Where you can go for more information

Your local funeral director can give you initial information and guidance.

Māori and Pacific Peoples

Bereaved families and whānau from all cultures and backgrounds will find this time challenging. This makes it even more important that we show each other kindness and caring, manaakitanga and aroha.

For tangihanga, you can contact your iwi or hapū for support.

Guidelines are available for Pacific Peoples.

Where you can go for mental health assistance

You might not be able to say goodbye to a loved one, in the way you are used to, and this could be very challenging.

Read through the basic advice on mental wellbeing and call or text 1737. Talk with a trained counsellor, for free, anytime, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Looking after your mental wellbeing

Funerals and tangihanga at Alert Level 2

Up to 50 people can attend funerals and tangihanga at Alert Level 2.

Funeral directors can register with the Ministry of Health to allow up to 50 people to attend a funeral or tangihanga. The Ministry of Health must be satisfied that a range of public health measures can consistently be met.

These public health measures include:

  • maintaining physical distance 
  • facilities for hand hygiene.

Food and drink are permitted after the service provided the venue can meet the physical distancing and hygiene requirements for food preparation and serving.

This includes:

  • groups of no more than 10 people eating together
  • food served as individual portions and not from a buffet, and
  • no alcohol may be served or consumed on the premises.

Ministry of Health guidance deaths, funerals and tangihanga (external link)

Funerals and tangihanga at Alert Level 3

Gatherings of people create a very high risk of transmitting COVID-19.

Funerals and tangihanga are acceptable gatherings at Alert Level 3, but are limited to 10 people or under. They must take place at a funeral home. Formal tangihanga involving large gatherings cannot take place at Alert Level 3.

If you're attending a funeral or tangihanga you should still keep 2 metres apart from people not in your bubble.

At Alert Level 3 you can visit a cemetery in your region, if you can do so safely while maintaining a physical distance from people not in your bubble.

Talk with your funeral director about specific arrangements, including how to maintain physical distance. They can guide you on the best options for your situation, which may include livestreaming or video so others can take part in the service remotely.

People at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19, for example, those with underlying medical conditions, should avoid gatherings.

No food or drink should be consumed at any gathering, including funerals and tangi.

More about funerals and tangihanga at Alert Level 3 (external link)

Travelling to a funeral or tangihanga at Alert Level 3

You can travel between regions to attend a funeral or tangihanga. However no more than 10 people can attend a funeral or tangi, so you need to confirm that you are among those 10 people before travelling.

You do not need documentation to travel. If you are questioned, you should explain that you are going to a funeral or tangihanga. Where possible show any available documentation you have, for example, a notice of service from the funeral home.

Funerals and tangihanga at Alert Level 4

To stop the spread of COVID-19, gathering for funerals and tangihanga is not permitted while New Zealand is at Alert Level 4. This means:

  • no public funeral services
  • no tangihanga or funerals at marae, funeral homes, churches and other venues
  • no private whānau tangihanga at home.

Bereaved families and whānau from all cultures and backgrounds will find this time challenging. This makes it even more important that we show each other kindness and caring, manaakitanga and aroha.

Only people from the same self-isolation bubble as the deceased person can go to the funeral home and cemetery with the deceased, and only if these are in the same region. Talk with your funeral director about specific arrangements, including how to keep your physical distance.

This applies to all deceased persons, regardless of when and where they died, or the cause of death.

It includes gatherings at burials, cremations, memorial services, open or closed caskets or viewings, funeral wakes, processions or receptions and social gatherings, both indoors and outdoors.

Guidelines for tangihanga at Alert Level 4 (external link)

Why there are restrictions on funerals and tangihanga 

We must protect people’s health and ensure our health system can look after all people in New Zealand who become sick.

Bereaved families and whānau from all cultures and backgrounds will find this time challenging. This makes it even more important that we show each other kindness and caring, manaakitanga and aroha.

Funeral services

Funeral directors provide essential services and will continue working during Alert Level 4. They will be able to guide you on the best options for your situation, which may include:

  • livestreaming services on social media, or videoing them for later viewing
  • holding the funeral or tangihanga after the Alert Level 4 restrictions ease
  • holding a memorial service later, when restrictions on gatherings are lifted and it is safe to do so.

Religious leaders

People who would normally perform a religious role at funerals and tangihanga, such as priests, cannot perform funerals in person during Alert Level 4. They are not on the list of essential services for Alert Level 4, and therefore should be staying at home.

Online funerals are a way that religious leaders can continue to provide their services to grieving families during this difficult time.

Bereaved families will find this especially difficult, but it is important that as few people as possible travel and interact with other people so we can eradicate COVID-19.

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