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Review of the Cemeteries Act 1986 and Cremation Act 1929
Cemetery redevelopment is about redeveloping existing burial areas of the cemetery to allow for new burial areas and in doing so, meeting the ongoing burial needs of the community. The process of cemetery redevelopment can be likened to urban renewal. In the case of cemetery redevelopment the land is retained for cemetery purposes, maintaining and conserving the use of land for burials for perpetuity and in the public interest.
The redevelopment of existing burial areas to accommodate new gravesites, memorial locations and mausoleum crypts is provided for in the Cemeteries Act under Part V, Division 4 — Redevelopment Schemes. The Cemeteries Act does not regulate
how a cemetery authority must go about redeveloping its existing cemetery but does provide that the authority must obtain Ministerial approval and undertake a community consultation process. Prior to a cemetery authority implementing a redevelopment
scheme, they must prepare a register of all burials and make a plan of the redevelopment area publicly available, inform holders of rights of burial of their right to object to the proposed scheme and provide notice of its intention to implement
the redevelopment scheme. A cemetery authority is required to consider each submission received during the consultation process and must not proceed with a redevelopment scheme if a specified area of that scheme is subject to an objection
by the holder of a right of burial.
While cemetery redevelopment allows cemetery authorities to maximise the use of cemetery land to ensure the sustainability of the cemetery, it is a sensitive issue that remains the subject of community debate.
An example of a cemetery redevelopment strategy includes cemetery renewal, which involves placing new graves between existing graves without disturbing the existing interred remains.
Cemetery renewal is currently a major cemetery redevelopment strategy undertaken at Karrakatta Cemetery as there is no further land available to expand the cemetery grounds and there is a continued demand for burials within the cemetery.2 The renewal program at Karrakatta Cemetery has evolved since it first commenced in the 1970s. Some elements of the current program are that:
The MCB does not currently receive any government grants or appropriation, and funds daily operations and infrastructure upkeep from monies paid by members of the public for products and services. Its cemeteries are currently cost neutral to the State Government.
The renewal program at Karrakatta Cemetery has been the subject of significant public debate over many years, particularly in relation to concerns regarding the need to ensure that family histories and traditions are respected through the preservation
of headstones and the retention of war graves and memorials.
The MCB has conducted community market research indicating that, whilst not entirely comfortable with the concept, most families understand the rationale for the renewal program and support it as a means to keep Karrakatta Cemetery operating as
a full-service cemetery if the implementation continues to be undertaken in a respectful manner.
The NSW Act provides for the re-use of an interment site which is the subject of an expired renewable interment right and the removal of any memorial to a deceased person erected on or at the site, subject to certain conditions. The Rookwood General Cemetery in New South Wales is the largest cemetery in the southern hemisphere and it is expected that capacity will be reached by 2035 or sooner.
Strategies to maximise that cemetery’s remaining land include re-purposing existing infrastructure, conducting extensive audits of older areas and researching new technologies. An aboveground structure offering earth-style interments and
a decomposition project that could enable families to re-use their graves under renewable tenure for generations are examples of innovations under consideration.3
Under the SA Act, ownership of a gravesite reverts to the cemetery authority if the interment right has not been renewed or if a period of two years has elapsed since notice was given regarding the expiry of the interment right.
The site may then be re-used in accordance with the SA Act. All remains are recovered from the site and are placed within an ossuary box and re-interred at a lower depth in the same site; the site can then be re-sold. A cemetery authority in South
Australia also has general powers which enable it to expand the cemetery, improve the cemetery, restrict interments in any part of the cemetery or take any other action that it considers necessary or desirable for the proper management and
maintenance of the cemetery.
Under the VIC Act, a right of interment for a cremation memorial can be purchased for a period of 25 years, or in perpetuity. For 25-year rights, the option is given to renew the memorial at the end of that period, or to have the ashes scattered
in the cemetery grounds. If the holder of the right is uncontactable, the Greater Metropolitan Cemeteries Trust may scatter the ashes in accordance with the regulated process.
Issue 3A.1: The Cemeteries Act allows a cemetery authority to implement a cemetery redevelopment scheme provided that Ministerial approval is obtained following the completion of community consultation requirements.
Option 1: Retain current Ministerial approval process in legislation and make amendments to strengthen the effectiveness of public consultation requirements where needed.
Issue 3B.1: At Karrakatta Cemetery, cemetery renewal involves redeveloping existing cemetery burial areas to accommodate new gravesites, memorial locations and mausoleum crypts.
No existing remains are disturbed.
Option 1: Retain status quo.
Option 2: Modify or enhance existing Karrakatta Cemetery redevelopment policies where feasible to address any community concerns identified through this consultation.