Kiwi Coffin Club sees surge of interest

The Kiwi Coffin Club has seen a surge in interest as more and more people choose to design their own coffins.

The club, which helps people make coffins for themselves and their loved ones, says it's partly due to the rising cost of coffins but also because people are becoming increasingly comfortable thinking and talking about death.

Dianne Pye has been part of the Kiwi Coffin Club for six years. She's chosen her very own coffin and showed Newshub what it looks like.

"I like lime green, it doesn't actually suit me, but when I'm dead, who cares," Pye jokes.  

Death isn't a taboo topic at the club, its 20 volunteers speak openly about it. There is laughter and tears as people put the finishing touches on their coffins.

"She was crying her eyes out and said 'I'm really happy with it'. The tears were rolling down her face, it was just lovely," Kay Farrow, who is a member of the Coffin Club tells Newshub.

Pye added, "it's nice to be able to do it for people."

The club began in a Rotorua carport 11 years ago and it's now a charitable trust, building more than 100 coffins a year.

Farrow has been there since the beginning.

"It was surprising how many people wanted to do their own," Farrow says. "It went from there and just ballooned."

It all starts in the workshop with Dave Page. He's made over 600 since joining the club seven years ago. And he has a personal reason for being at the club. 

"My wife wanted to join shortly before she died," Page says. "She never made it so I decided to come along after she went."

Once assembled, the coffins are primed and painted.

"Put the first finishing coat on, then the second coat and then it goes to Diane and Kay," one of the volunteers in the workshop says.  

They're in charge of the finishing touches.

"It's a big, big thing to choose what we're going to put in them," Page says.

People can either buy a plain coffin or work with volunteers to make a personalised one - like a green sports car.

"He was going to drive away into his underground car park, which he did only ten days later," Kiwi Coffin Club treasurer Ron Wattam says.

The Citizens Advice Bureau has seen an increase in people struggling to pay for funerals and it's not surprising given the average coffin now costs over $2500. The Coffin Club only charges for materials, not labour - costing less than $1000.  

"We generally produce eight to 10 coffins a month, sometimes we've been as high as 14 or 15," Wattam says. 

And for the first time this year the club's been invited onto maraes.

"Incredible response to bring awareness to get people talking about death," Wattam says. "It's the most important thing to do."

Because it's important your final resting place is one you love.  

Watch the full story above.