Māori entrepreneur offers eco-friendly alternatives for the afterlife

By Talisa Kupenga

A Māori woman passionate about her culture and the environment has created a green alternative for families organising funerals for their loved ones. Rawinia Puna has expanded her flax paper business to include natural caskets, bamboo caskets, urns and shrouds for people who want an eco-friendly burial option.

Rawinia Puna says her flax paper caskets connect traditional funeral practice with eco-friendly burial options.

Rawinia Puna, Puna Ecopreneur says, "Traditionally our Māori looked after our people themselves, they became instant funeral directors themselves. They created the casket or the shroud themselves. If this inspires our Māori people to do the same again then that's fantastic."

The organic caskets cost around $1,600. Made with a cardboard frame wrapped in flax paper, the casket can be personalised with patterns printed with vegetable inks.

Puna says, “Inside the casket is flax fibre, it's stripped, clean, flax fibre and that can be used for bedding it can be used for the pillow and it can be used as an adornment."

People in Australia, England, Italy and Europe have used Puna's service. A personalised casket could be made from scratch in about three days.

"I hope other people pick up this idea, not only Māori, because green burials are the way to go, and planting a tree on a loved one is the best thing we can give back to the whenua and to the person that we love,” says Puna.

Puna says she also makes flax caskets, wraps and shrouds for pets because many people consider pets as family members too.