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About us

Death Without Debt

Our Mission

Death Without Debt NZ is dedicated to creating a future where the cost of dying doesn't add to the burden of grief.

 

In the current Death, Burial and Cremation review we currently have a 1:60 year opportunity to break the hold the funeral industry has over New Zealanders.

This chance must not be wasted.

Together, we can make a difference and ensure that every New Zealander can say goodbye to their loved ones without worrying about debt.

How We Help

  • Advocacy: We lobby for legislative changes so that N.Z.ers are freed from dependence on the funeral industry to do basic paperwork and are not tricked, pressured, or bullied into paying more than they need to.  

  • Education: We provide digital and paper resources and information to empower individuals to make informed decisions about funeral planning and expenses.

  • Workshops and talks

Join Us

Together, we can put things right.

Join Death Without Debt NZ in our mission to make dying more affordable and ensure that every New Zealander receives the dignified farewell they deserve.  We welcome you to join hundreds of others working to make funerals more dignified and affordable.

Get Involved

Ready to make a difference? There are many ways you can support Death Without Debt NZ:

  • Donate: Your contribution helps us continue our advocacy work and provide support to those in need.

  • Volunteer or initiate your own activities. 

  • Spread the Word: Share our message with your friends, family, and community so people understand how funerals got to be so expensive and what we need to do to break the grip the industry has on our communities.

Together, let's ensure that no one has to face death with the burden of debt. Join us today.

Working Group

Forrest Chambers is a prison chaplain, school trustee, coffin maker and back-blocks farmer from Levin.  He has four daughters.

Melanie Humphries-Connolly  is an End of Life Doula, Registered Nurse (RN) and co-facilitator of the Hutt Valley Death Cafe and lives in Porirua.

Peter Davie has retired from science research and also lecturing at the vet school in Massey. Peter lives with his partner, Julia Quince, in Palmerston North. He was exposed to the Funeral Industry after recent deaths of his siblings and felt the cost of their funerals was much higher than he expected. His work with Death Without Debt is his response to that exposure.

Krista Fullerton is a conservation contractor, mother of four and active in her Levin community.

Te Roopu Moana is an experienced embalmer and funeral director.  She is a passionate advocate for the future of tangihanga in Aotearoa.  She lives in the Wairarapa

Nicky Walker is a health professional with a longstanding concern around poverty and funeral expenses.  She lives on the Kapiti Coast.

Fergus Wheeler Prior to Death Without Debt, Fergus had a background in public interest advocacy, including alcohol law reform and environmental issues. He had no idea he would end up working on funeral legislation.  Fergus lives on the Kapiti Coast.

More bios coming

See also our Workshop presenter bios here

 
Our Story

Our website's bellbirds are in honour of those that kept Betty Wheeler company, fluttering outside her window in her last days in the winter of 2019.


Betty, a woman who devoted much of her life to community service, was denied the affordable, dignified, community-organised funeral she wanted by a negligent medical system and ruthless funeral directors. You can read an account of the extraordinary dysfunction her funeral process uncovered here.


When Betty’s son started digging into why the system had failed, he found almost everyone involved in the pre-cremation and pre-burial process had unthinkingly defaulted to the funeral industry’s commercial interests. The dysfunction extended well beyond the medical profession and their staff, deep into the public service, local councils, to hospice and beyond. Few, if any, of these people were profiting from their behaviour but none were prepared to take responsibility. 


One of Betty’s friends, the widely-respected former leader of the Green Party, Jeanette Fitzsimons, contacted the family when she heard about their ordeal and the disrespect they had encountered. She alerted them to a review of Burial and Cremation legislation. The Review had begun with the Law Commission and was now being conducted by the Ministry of Health.  And so Death Without Debt was formed.

The first phase of the campaign to make dying more affordable began in 2020.

We found both the Law Commission and the Ministry of Health (MoH) had neglected to look at why the funeral industry enjoyed a captive market.


Death Without Debt negotiated with the MoH to have these, and other vital issues included within the scope of the review.  As of October 2023 the MoH have provided no assurance they understand or care about these fundamental concerns and repeatedly fail to show up for scheduled consultation as directed by the Minister of Health.
 

Death Without Debt is working with Community Law, the Salvation Army and other organisations concerned with human rights and poverty. All our work is voluntary and we have no financial interests in the funeral process. We welcome the support of individuals and organisations.

Our aim is simple:  To ensure everyone has the right to an affordable and dignified funeral process.

We dedicate our work to the memory of Betty Wheeler who deserved better and to all those individuals in Taupo and Turangi's medical community whose indifference brought to light a national disgrace.


Arohanui

 

 

Three Principles

By Right, Ordinary People  should be able to negotiate pre-cremation and burial paperwork requirements without being forced, by the system or practitioner neglect, into dependency on the private business sector.  Under the current system, the public have, effectively, no option but to engage funeral directors. This is resulting in disturbing levels of debt.​

 

Doctors’ Conduct  Should Align With The Caring Values of the Medical Profession.  The gradual erosion of after-death care has happened slowly, collectively, and unconsciously.  Correcting this requires a conscious decision by the medical profession to stop doing harm and start providing proper duty of care in the after-death setting.  It only takes two minutes.  All families should have the pre-cremation or pre-burial paperwork completed for them.  Families (or whoever is taking charge of the body) should also be provided with the information necessary to make informed choices about the pre-disposal and funeral process so they can stay out of debt.​

 

Individuals,  Families  and Communities need to take responsibility for staying out of financial trouble.  This will mean a shift away from the idea that one must literally “pay” one’s respects, to more modest cultural practices. Moving away from dependence on the funeral industry is an important step in achieving community well-being.​​

Add your voice to our campaign to end funeral debt.  It's free (but a $10 donation is appreciated).  You'll get occasional newsletters, and we'll let you know if anything important is happening.

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