Wellington City Council considering renting graves as plots run out

Wellington's housing crisis is now impacting the dead as well as the living with the city's cemeteries are running out of room, leaving its Council to figure out where to lay its residents to rest. 

Karori Cemetery has run out of room and Makara Cemetery has less than half its capacity left - it's predicted to be full by 2038.

One proposed solution is for residents to rent a grave - they could be buried in it for a period of time yet to be decided - perhaps between 15 and a hundred years. 

Once the "lease" expires, remains would be exhumed and either relocated and cremated - opening the grave for another person to be buried in.

The plan is in its very early stages - nothing has been decided. But preliminary research suggests it may be popular with some Wellingtonians. 

Of 130 people surveyed for the council report 40 percent said they somewhat or strongly agreed with the idea while 50 percent either somewhat or strongly disagreed.

If approved by councillors the plan will be released for public feedback with a final plan presented to councillors in May.

City councillor Fleur Fitzsimmons told Newshub she understood the proposed plan is "not for everybody".

"It's not something I would be comfortable doing for my family but there has been interest from other [Wellington] residents."

She says temporary ownership of a grave is "common" across other parts of the world, but would need to be introduced "with real sensitivity and care". It also would not impact existing graves, she said.

Countries such as Singapore, Germany and Belgium offer public graves for free  but only for the first 20 or so years, reports The Guardian.

After that period of time, families can either pay to keep them or the graves are recycled, with the most recent residents moved further into the ground or to another site, often a mass grave.

It may sound morbid - but sharing a final resting place with other dead people is actually fairly traditional. Over the course of human history it's estimated around 108 billion people have lived, and of course, died. And they have to go somewhere.

The oldest known "cemetery" is a cave in Morocco. Known as Taforalt or Grotte des Pigeons, it contains the remains of at least 34 human skeletons from Upper Palaeolithic between 15,100 and 14,000 years ago.

In Europe, burial mounds from the Bronze Age were reused throughout the Anno Domini period - and in the 18th century Parisians built the Catacombs - sprawling tunnels beneath the city, crammed with bones - to house their dead.