Cost of dying crisis: Kiwis struggling to send-off family members as funeral costs soar - Funeral Directors Association

Funeral directors say a government grant needs an urgent increase amid soaring funeral costs.

The Work and Income funeral grant is for those facing financial hardship who cannot afford a sendoff for their family members.

Its current cap is $2280.70.

But numbers from the Funeral Directors Association showed the grant will not cover the costs of a funeral in many places around the motu.

In Tauranga, burial costs have jumped by more than $1500 since July 2020 to $4673 - well outside the grant's limit.

Nelson, Hastings and the Far North have also all recorded substantial increases of between 20 to 40 percent in burial costs over the past two years.

Funeral Directors Association chief executive Gillian Boyes said the nationwide average cost of a very modest funeral with a burial was around $8400.

She said thousands of families could not afford a funeral, with Māori and Pasifika disproportionately represented in grant applications.

There was an impact on their wellbeing when they could not "farewell their loved ones in a culturally appropriate way".

"There were around 5000 people who missed out on a funeral altogether during the Covid lockdowns...But that number happens every year for people who are on a very low income.

"It's really terribly sad for those families - it's not often their fault that they can't afford these costs," she said.

Boyes believed the grant should at least be increased to match the ACC funeral grant of $6300.

The association contacted the Ministry for Social Development before this year's Budget and was told an increase to the fund will be considered in the social welfare reforms.

"Fixing this problem is not a big fiscal ask but can make an enormous difference to individual

families," Boyes said.

Funeral costs are determined by local councils and often cover a plot, interment and maintenance.

Tauranga Council parks and recreation manager Warren Aitken said the council's increased cost was to bring it in line with the national average.

"Council increased user fees and charges, based on a cost-recovery model, as the service was not paying for itself... [Tauranga] burial costs now sit just above average, where we were previously sitting well below the average," he said.