Wairarapa Funeral Services director Robert Milne with the live streaming equipment. PHOTO/ELI HILL

ELI HILL
eli.hill@age.co.nz

An increase in people watching livestreamed Wairarapa funerals on the internet matches a nationwide trend.

Research carried out by New Zealand funeral live-streaming and recording business OneRoom, found that in 2018, over 80,000 people tuned in to a virtual funeral for a loved one using its service, a 35 per cent increase on 2017 when 52,000 tuned in.

Wairarapa Funeral Services owner Robert Milne said they began streaming funerals around five years ago.

“It was new then, no one else had the technology to do it.”

Milne said they installed cameras in the roof of the chapel which gave people access to a live broadcast of the funeral via a secure site.

“It’s a nice way to involve family that aren’t here. You’re saying, ‘we know you can’t be here but we’ve thought about you enough to set this up so you can participate in it and see what’s happening’.”

While it’s possible to watch a funeral as it is happening, there is also the option of watching up to a month later and downloading the full video.

“If somebody’s in the United Kingdom they can get up in the morning, get some family support around them and then watch the stream six hours later.”

The stream is able to be accessed anywhere with a decent internet connection and Wairarapa funerals have reached people right across the globe – from Europe to North and South America.

While the streaming is useful for family overseas, Milne said it was also useful for people who are sick in hospital or can’t make it to the service.

“I wouldn’t say it’s as good as being there but it’s a good way to involve someone who can’t necessarily get here whether it’s because of time or health or cost.”

While there is a cost involved in streaming, Milne said it’s a lot less than a flight from Auckland to Wellington.

Milne said livestreams are in most funeral homes and he expected use of the service would continue to grow.

“I like to use the example of music. Back when I was younger, we had CDs and tapes and records. Now I have access to hundreds of songs all on my phone.”