ACT residents are being encouraged to have their say in the development of Canberra's new cemetery as capacity and rising funeral costs have prompted an uptake in cremations and alternative methods.
With Woden Cemetery at capacity, the government is asking for feedback on a revised masterplan and stage one designs of a new cemetery at Southern Memorial Park. The masterplan for the site has been years in the making, with the first draft released in 2012.
The future site will be on Mugga Lane in Hume and will feature a full-service cemetery the government says "will meet the diverse needs of the entire ACT community".
Key features of the plan include various burial and memorial areas; a main visitor facility with function rooms, a cafe, florist and crematorium housing, and landscaping consistent with the native surroundings.
Initial designs were released in April, showcasing capacity for 60,000 burial sites over the next 100 years.
In 2017, a Finder survey found Canberra was the cheapest Australian city for burial services, averaging $6199. However, that figure jumped to $7032 in March this year, making it the fourth most expensive.
A Choice report in December 2019 found natural burial, nonprofit burial homes, DIY coffin-making, eco-friendly burials and online cremation bookings were some of the emerging trends disrupting the funeral industry across the country.
Alex Millar, funeral director at Gungahlin's Grantley Perry & Sons, said he had been part of the government's previous consultations for the new cemetery, which began in 2009.
He said anecdotal evidence suggested people are now leaning towards cremation of their loved ones.
"As Woden (cemetery) has filled up, it's caused problems with people wanting certain sections, or burial generally," he said.
"It's disappointing for some people as it's a beautiful cemetery, but that's definitely been an issue ... the alternative is Gungahlin, which still has a lot of capacity. People are generally happy with that site, but it's the prices - you're looking at just $10,000 for the land as a starting point."
Bill Cole, funeral director at William Cole Funerals, said a new cemetery in Canberra was "something that clearly needs addressing".
"The consultation's been going on for years so it's not as if it's something new," he said.
The government's Southern Memorial Park's masterplan consultation process ends on June 7 before detailed design works on stage one begin.
- More: yoursay.act.gov.au/SMP/SMP-feedback
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