Welcome to the new Independent website. We hope you enjoy it and we value your feedback. Please contact us here.

Obese New Zealanders put the squeeze on cemeteries

New Zealanders' expanding waistlines are creating a weighty problem for funeral directors, who cannot fit cadavers in their crematories and have resorted to selling double burial plots, reports said Friday.

Funeral Directors Association of New Zealand president Tony Garing said the size of the standard coffin had increased as obesity rates soared.

"Caskets are getting wider to accommodate people, so it is the width that is the issue," he told new agency NZPA, adding the standard coffin was now 58 centimetres (23 inches) at the shoulder, up from 48 centimetres.

Noelene Mudgway, manager of Auckland's Manukau Memorial Gardens, said cremation was not an option for some families saying their last farewell to a supersized loved one.

"Our cremators aren't wide enough to take people who are severely obese," she said.

Mudgway said the cemetery tried to accommodate large coffins by burying them in plots at the end of a row, where they would not encroach on other graves.

But she said the solution sometimes involved selling families two adjoining plots, each 1.2 metres wide, at a cost of 2,520 dollars (1,865 US) each.

One-in-four New Zealanders is obese, according to the health ministry, rising to almost two-in-three among the country's Pacific Islander communities.