The Public Health Regulation 2022 (the Regulation) allows the Secretary to approve the burial of a deceased person in a grave at a depth of less than 900mm.

Last updated: 18 October 2022


Shallow burials are carried out due to individual circumstances and to respect the culture, beliefs, and religious practices of deceased persons and their families. Some reasons for requesting a shallow burial include:

  • A reduction in overall depth of burial due to a geographical feature and subsurface conditions.
  • A second or third burial: when a grave is opened for a second or third burial the excavation needs to leave a minimum layer of undisturbed earth between the coffin, or sealed cap directly above the coffin, and the natural ground level.
  • The land has been filled and a reduction in burial depth is needed to allow burial in the fill. In this situation the fill material needs to be suitable for use in the operation of a cemetery and allow a grave to be prepared without collapsing. The soil and its use as fill should not permit decomposition leachate to percolate to the surface of slopes or enter any streams or intermittent water courses.
  • High water table following periods of heavy rainfall and/or flooding.

Rules for shallow burials

The Regulation (section 90 Burial of bodies) allows the Secretary to approve, generally or in a particular case, a deceased person to be buried in a grave at a depth less than 900mm. An application can be made to the local health district public health unit (PHU) for this approval.

The approval can establish pre-approved methods for shallow burials that commonly occur, in accordance with industry practice, or cases where special design methods are necessary due to subsurface conditions. For example, this can include two burials in one grave, or geotechnical engineering work that is required in a cemetery (or cemeteries) where certain subsurface ground conditions are found (such as a high-water table and shallow depth to a rock floater or bedrock).

Approval process

An application for a shallow burial must be submitted to the PHU in the area in which the body of the deceased will be buried.

The applicant needs to complete the application form and provide detailed information to support the application including the cemetery plot number/reference, a plan and methodology of the interment.

Within 14 days of the interment, the council or cemetery authority must record satisfactory compliance with the requirement within their records/cemetery register.

Related documents

Further advice

Current as at: Tuesday 18 October 2022
Contact page owner: Environmental Health