Falling number of burials forces fee hikes

JANINE RANKIN
Last updated 09:50 27/04/2013

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The cost of dealing with death in Palmerston North is going up again, partly because there is not enough of it going on.

City council charges for burials and cremations are rising 10 per cent from next month, but the income will still meet less than 60 per cent of the actual costs of running the Kelvin Grove cemetery and crematorium.

The number of burials, cremations and ash burials there has dropped from about 1000 a year a decade ago to stall at around 600 for each of the last three years.

The council figures also show falling numbers of burials, with the cheaper option of cremation favoured by about two-thirds of those organising funerals.

Council finance strategy manager Steve Paterson said the fees and charges would have to rise by a further 9 per cent, or 20 more plot purchases and burials a year would have to occur, to meet the 60 per cent user-pays target. At the moment, there are about 150 burials a year.

But the funeral industry was one of those activities where the council faced competition, and could not dictate the price.

For the last 10 years, cremation services have been available at Beauchamps in Palmerston North, and people in Levin also have a local cremation option.

That leaves a group of four funeral directors supporting the Kelvin Grove crematorium and cemetery in most cases, unless families specifically request cremation or burial elsewhere.

Mr Paterson said the costs of running the burials and cremations activity had increased as the cemetery grew and because of increased costs of administering consent requirements. The council is also facing likely costs for strengthening the crematorium building. It has been identified as earthquake prone, with steel reinforcing in the concrete frames falling short of modern building standards.

Council property manager John Brenkley said the council was waiting for law changes about the timeframe and requirements for earthquake strengthening before recommending which council-owned buildings should be improved, in which order, and to what level.

Under the new schedule of burial and cremation charges, a plot will cost $1710, up from $1554, and interment fees rise from $755 to $830. The cost of cremation goes up from $475 to $522.

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- Manawatu Standard

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