Hastings District Council sexton, Steve Hibberd, says the decision to impose a total fire ban across the region is behind the unprecedented backlog at the city’s crematorium (pictured).

“Let’s just say there’s no room at the inn,” Mr Hibberd said. “There are more people lying prone in here than a Chinese opium den.”

He says the standoff between his division (Community Services) and that of Emergency Management has affected a “usually cheery” crematorium staff morale. “Our holding coolers are so full we’ve had to start top ‘n’ tailing, which means we’ve nowhere to chill our crates – you wouldn’t believe the negative effect warm beer has on productivity.”

Paul Hawke, council’s deputy principal rural fire officer (and recipient of last year’s “Most Ponderous Civic Title” award) today came out in defence of the regional fire ban.

“I do appreciate it can be an inconvenience, particularly for crematoriums,” he said, “yet we stand by the decision. People lighting fires could face a $20,000 fine in addition to costs to extinguish the fire.
Until we get decent rain, we’re asking people store their deceased ones in chest freezers.”


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  1. If you look closer at the ban, you'll also see the restrictions apply to hangi – hence council have obliquely withdrawn customary cooking rights.

    My family and I live in rural Bridge Pa, with no electricity, which means hangi is our only way of cooking food.

    Come Easter, we have the dubious job of telling all our visiting whanau that we’re not having hangi…I guess we'll be eating raw food or paying a $20,000 fine. Sound like culinary bigotry?

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