Launceston burial fees proposed to rise by 15pc for fifth consecutive year, funeral directors outraged
It’s a decision everyone, or their families, will one day need to make — to get buried or cremated?
- Burial prices at Launceston’s Carr Villa Memorial Park are set to rise 15 per cent from July 1
- Launceston council says it will “align” burial fees with the wider industry, but funeral directors say “it’s getting out of hand”
- Launceston burial costs are still cheaper than Hobart, but are more expensive than others in the state’s north, say funeral directors
Cremations are these days becoming the more popular option, but it’s not always because people don’t want to get buried.
The cost is also playing a role.
In Launceston, in Tasmania’s north, burial costs in the city’s main cemetery Carr Villa Memorial Park have risen by more than 225 per cent in eight years and they are proposed to rise by another 15 per cent from July. The increase has nothing to do with the spread of coronavirus.
The proposed increase, if approved by councillors, means burial costs for a single grave at Carr Villa will be $3,770 from July 1, 2020 — up from $2,850 two years ago and $1,164 in 2012.
Meanwhile, cremation costs in the city have decreased — from $810 in 2018/19 to a proposed $615 for next financial year — as it is a more competitive market.
Bringing fees ‘in line’ with wider industry
Council staff who have proposed the rise in the “City of Launceston draft Fees and Charges 2020-21” document said it would “align” the cemeteries’ fees with the wider industry.
“The key elements of the pricing structure are: to continue to increase burial pricing by 15 per cent annually (adjusted for rounding), in line with other comparative cemeteries … (and) to reduce cremation pricing to meet the market,” the report stated.
The council was expected to discuss and set the new charges at its March 19 meeting, but the agenda item was withdrawn at the eleventh hour because the council voted to prepare a coronavirus stimulus package which could affect other council fees.
The council would not comment further on the proposed price increases.
Finney Funeral Services managing director Mark Graham said Carr Villa’s fee had “skyrocketed” when compared to other cemeteries in northern Tasmania.
“If we look to the mainland and Hobart, some of the cemetery costs are considerably more than what we would pay here from a regional perspective, but the costs have certainly gone up at Carr Villa and way more in comparison to cemeteries at Scottsdale, Deloraine, Beaconsfield and Georgetown,” Mr Graham said.
“The problem with a 15 per cent increase each year is that that is actually compounded, so what that’s done to the cost of burials is made them skyrocket.”
Saving costs by getting buried elsewhere
Some councils — like the Northern Midlands — charge an additional fee for non-residential ratepayers to be buried in their cemeteries.
However, even with the additional 30 per cent non-Northern Midlands ratepayers need to pay, it’s still much cheaper to get buried at Longford or Perth than in Launceston.
Devonport ratepayers receive a $750 discount if they want to be buried within their municipality.
Approximate Single Burial Costs For 2019/20Longford Cemetery : $1,505
Perth Cemetery: $1,701
West Coast Council cemeteries: $1,410.65
Dorset Council cemeteries: $1,020
Millingtons Cemeteries, which manages most of the public cemeteries in the state’s south including the Cornelian Bay Cemetery in Hobart, was unable to provide its burial costs before deadline.
Kingborough Council charges $1,005 for single burial plots, but grave-digging costs are added on top of that.
Burial costs should match CPI, say funeral directors
Launceston funeral directors believe burial cost rises at Carr Villa are getting out of hand and shouldn’t be rising more than CPI.
“I can appreciate from the Launceston City Council’s point of view if you’ve got an under-performing asset then they’ve got to do something about it, but they’ve really passed the cost of their business decisions onto the users,” Mr Graham said.
TM Foley director Nicholas Lee described the rise as “disgraceful” and an insult to residents.
“Most of the people here have lived their entire life in Launceston, and as our way of honouring them and thanking them for building our city, we increase the single grave by $2,640 over a 10-year period,” he said.
“It’s just theft on a grand scale.”
“Cemeteries are not places where we’re supposed to be making money — they’re meant to be a service.”
Funeral homes hit with the increased costs
Mr Graham said large year-on-year burial cost increases were costing businesses.
Around 20 per cent of Tasmanians pre-book and pay in advance for their funerals.
“When families are looking to set aside money for graves, they’re just not going to have an investment that would go anywhere near catering for a price increase of 230 per cent, ” Mr Graham said.
Mr Lee said hundreds of his clients had pre-paid their funerals in 2002.
“The cost of the grave was something like $700, now in 2020 it’s over $3,000 — I’m out of pocket each time by $2,300,” Mr Lee said.
“I can’t go to the family and say they haven’t paid enough.”
It is unclear when the City of Launceston’s proposed 2020/21 fees and charges will go back to councillors to be debated and set.