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Bill protects Māori protocols around death

Justice Minister Andrew Little’s Māori death protocols Bill had its first reading in Parliament last night. 

“The Bill requires coroners to consider Māori cultural protocols when determining who can view, touch or remain near a tūpāpaku - body of deceased.

“The Coroners (Access to Body of Dead Person) Amendment Bill implements a recommendation of the Māori Affairs Committee Report Inquiry into whānau access to and management of tūpāpaku, and aims to improve cultural considerations in the coronial system.

“The Bill is seeking to amend section 26 of the Coroners Act 2006.

“Whānau can currently request a viewing or remain with or near their loved one while the tūpāpaku is in the coroner’s custody.

“Sudden deaths can be emotionally difficult, especially when the family then has to navigate the coronial process. The coroners are sensitive to this fact and work hard to return the tūpāpaku to their family as soon as possible.

“In practice, the coroner already considers cultural and spiritual beliefs when making decisions about the access to dead bodies and approaches each request on a case-by-case basis.

“The amendment in this Bill legally defines that the coroner must consider tikanga Māori and the expectations of other cultures when determining whether someone should be allowed to remain with the tūpāpaku.

“The Bill will now be considered by the Māori Affairs Select Committee,” says Andrew Little.