2 April 2024

Cemeteries and cremation under the microscope as council plans for future

| Claire Sams
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Old headstone

Bungendore Cemetery is one of 13 cemeteries across the Queanbeyan–Palerang Regional Council area. Photo: Sally Hopman.

As it takes a look at the region’s cemeteries, a regional council is asking people to think about their longest-term plans.

Queanbeyan–Palerang Regional Council’s draft Cemeteries Strategy has been released, with the public invited to give their thoughts.

Manager Urban Landscapes Tim Geyer said the strategy was intended to future-proof council planning around the region’s cemeteries and what facilities the community might need.

“There are cultures or religions that rely on cremation and others that insist on burial,” he said.

“We are – and Queanbeyan in particular – a very multicultural community.

“There are people out there that really want something different and think we should be a bit greener and a bit more eco-friendly and we need to look at that, as well.”

There are 13 cemeteries across the Queanbeyan–Palerang local government area (LGA), some of which are managed by Council, while others are being managed by a community or other bodies.

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According to the study, some areas in the LGA are predicted to experience higher population growth in coming decades, which is expected to put pressure on cemeteries.

Rural cemeteries receive about three to seven burials each year, according to the study.

However, Googong, Tralee, Queanbeyan and Bungendore are among the areas predicted to have the highest increase in population, while the region is expected to see a 36.9 per cent increase in the population at retirement age between 2021 and 2031.

“We need to start planning for the future needs of the community – not just for the next five to 10 years, but in the long term,” Mr Geyer said.

“We’re looking at Queanbeyan, Braidwood and Bungendore, and what planning we need to go forward into the future.”

The call for the public’s feedback follows a temporary pause being placed on reserving plots at Queanbeyan General Cemetery in April 2023 until the planned new Googong Memorial Park opens.

Another element the draft strategy examines is the lack of crematoriums in the LGA.

Instead, cremations are carried out in Canberra or Goulburn, though people’s ashes can be interred or scattered at cemeteries that Council manages.

“It’s not an area that council sees itself going into,” Mr Geyer said.

“If a private provider was to approach council and wanted to put a [crematorium] in, we as council would look at the planning requirements for that and process it in the same way as any other developer.”

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It is also the first strategy for the merged Queanbeyan–Palerang council area.

“This is the bringing together of [a plan for] all the cemeteries across Queanbeyan–Palerang, and it also aligns us with some legislation changes in NSW,” he said.

There are about 200 burials and 50 cremated remains interred each year, the draft strategy said.

“From the general public’s point of view, the public shouldn’t see a significant change in how we operate our cemeteries,” Mr Geyer says.

“What it’s more around is helping council planning for those newer cemeteries and managing the ones we have.”

The draft Cemeteries Strategy is available for download via council’s YourVoice website, and is open for feedback until 4:30 pm on 11 April.

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