I would like to expand on the severity of the new cemetery price rises and the effect on Bendigo families.
The Bendigo community needs to be aware of the extraordinary rises that come into effect today when Remembrance Parks Central Victoria, formerly Bendigo Cemeteries Trust (BCT), will introduce its new pricing structure. In part, it addresses the competitive issues created by crematorium competition from Moama. This has needed to be addressed for a number of years but the BCT inexplicably sat on its hands complaining of loss of support whilst continuing to charge Bendigo families prices up to $300 more than Moama.
In terms of burial fees a new grave at Kangaroo Flat(grave and 1st Interment fees) will increase by a massive 42.6 per cent or $1345, from $3155 to $4500. The majority of areas within Bendigo Cemetery will increase by the same amount. The remaining section (lawn 10) at Bendigo and all of Eaglehawk Cemetery will increase by about $900, an enormous rise of 28 per cent, from $3155 to $4050
It is important to note that the average cost of a new grave in Geelong, Ballarat, Fawkner and Springvale is approximately $3200, and these four cemeteries are substantially better maintained and developed and have not been neglected in the same way the four principle Bendigo cemeteries have been over many years.
The cost at White Hills – inexplicably, in my view – will be reduced by about $155 to $3000 ($1500 less than Kangaroo Flat Cemetery). Is this to force people to use White Hills? The reasoning seems unclear, particularly if the trust has maintenance cost issues.
It just does not make sense. You stop people using the cemeteries they want by making them too expensive. You force them to use a cemetery they don’t want to use at an inexplicably lower price, which in cost terms is still close to the state average noted above $3200, ultimately reducing the trust’s income and so the bottom line. So if revenues are down, no major improvements can be made and the Bendigo community ends up with sub-standard facilities indefinitely. Sound ridiculous? Yes, it is.
It is also important to note that final interment fees will be reduced from $1945 to $1500, and although this sounds positive at first glance, the new fee is only now in line with the state average for like graves in major centres. So until now the Bendigo community has been paying about $400 more than other similar communities around the state such as Ballarat.
What does this all mean?If you live in Kangaroo Flat and need to buy a new grave, you have the choice of: $4500 for a new grave including purchase of land and first interment fee, or $3000 for a new grave at White Hills. That’s an unbelievable $1500 difference. Or if the cost is too prohibitive or you don’t want to go to White Hills, you have no choice but to look at the option of being cremated at Eaglehawk Crematorium for $697.
The issue frustrating Bendigo Funeral directors is that the condition and infrastructure at al Bendigo cemeteries over the last 20 plus years despite regular and substantive cost increases, has remained largely unchanged, unacceptable and in fact disgraceful in comparison to the standard of cemetery’s in other provincial cities. This is despite years of complaints from directors and their client’s families. The Bendigo Cemetery Trust has let the community down and in trying to address the problem, they are now disadvantaging many within the community or simply making burial an unaffordable option.
The level and spread of the new prices will, in my view, not help the trust achieve sufficient income to improve cemetery infrastructure and presentation, will put undue cost burdens on the community and ultimately force some families into cremation when that may not have been their first choice.
This is an issue that requires community and government consultation and in fact, an independent inquiry to ensure that Bendigo families are getting value for money and grieving families in all areas of the city are not being unfairly disadvantaged and/or penalised.
Cemeteries are community assets which should be run by the community, for the community and to the benefit of communities, in line with expectation both financially and in the provision of quality infrastructure. For too long our community has had to accept sub-standard cemetery facilities and it desperately needs to change.