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Body Collection & Transportation

Body Collection and Transportation

You do not need any special licences or endorsements to transport a body, unless you are a funeral director. Anyone with a valid driver’s licence can transport the body in a casket or coffin within New Zealand. Read more about the legalities of transporting a body.

Preparing to collect the body

If a person has died of natural causes, the deceased can be moved once they have been viewed by the attending medical doctor and a Medical Certificate of Causes of Death has been issued. In legal terms this means that the body can be “released” to the family immediately, for them to prepare for a funeral. If you plan to use the services of a funeral home, they will arrange collection of the body for you. If you are planning on transporting the body yourself there are some things you will need to consider:

  • You will need to sign a Transfer of Charge of Body (BDM39) form, so have some identification (such as your driver’s licence) available. BDM39 forms are available from funeral directors, hospitals and Births, Deaths and Marriages.
  • The Medical Certificate of Causes of Death must accompany the body.
  • When collecting a body from a funeral home, the body will need to be in a casket or coffin before it can be transported and you will need to view and identify the body before it can be moved.
  • A body should not be visible while being transported which means that it needs to be in either a coffin, casket or shroud. Find coffins and shrouds that are available to buy in New Zealand.
  • There is no requirement around what type of vehicle can be used to transport a body, but a large station wagon or a van is probably the most practical. Many crematoria and cemeteries might be unwilling to receive a body that has not been transported by a funeral director in a hearse so it is best to check this ahead of time.

Tips for transporting a body yourself

  • Make sure that the casket is secured to stop it from moving around inside the vehicle.
  • As the body warms up with the change in temperature being transported, it can expel gas so keep the windows down. Keep the temperature in the car as cool as possible. If you are using an eco-coffin or shroud, it is a good idea to place a large plastic sheet underneath it to catch any possible leakage.
  • You should make every effort to preserve the dignity of the deceased.
  • For a longer journey, you might want to consider packing the casket or coffin with bags of ice packs.

Transporting ashes from overseas

Human remains, including cremation ashes, are not permitted to be sent by international post. If the ashes are overseas, there are various methods for returning them including air freight, courier service or even hand luggage on the aircraft with an accompanying person as long as all the documentation is in order.

Air transport of human remains

Domestic

The body does not need to be embalmed for domestic flights with Air New Zealand, however, it is essential that specified packaging, sealing and documentation requirements are adhered to as otherwise the casket will not be able to be accepted for transportation.

International

If you’re bringing human remains into New Zealand, you need to email New Zealand Customs scanned copies of your documentation and note “Urgent – Human remains” in the subject line.

Air New Zealand will only accept human remains for transport from funeral directors, New Zealand District Health Boards (DHBs) or the New Zealand Police. Anyone organising their own funeral can pick up the human remains from the destination cargo depot. Read more about repatriation (bringing a body back to New Zealand).

Air transport of a body

New Zealand Customs can support you with any requests for bringing human remains into New Zealand. There are also strict requirements you will need to follow if you are transporting a body with Air New Zealand within the country.

Always make every effort to preserve the dignity of the deceased by planning ahead and seeking advice and support from experienced professionals.