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Cemeteries, an unholy row

The Bugle App

John Stapleton

05 June 2024, 6:15 AM

Cemeteries, an unholy row

An unholy row has broken between councils across NSW and the Minns state government, with the decision to introduce taxes on burials attracting harsh criticism.


The new tax will add $156 for each burial, $63 for each ash interment, and $43 for each cremation. 


Australians are already amongst the most heavily taxed people on Earth, and the idea of charging grieving families extra on top of the extensive funeral costs they already face has hit a raw nerve. “Grieving families to cop new death tax” is just one of the negative headlines the move has attracted, while councils around the state have complained about the cost of administering the levy and the lack of consultation with them.



Premier Chris Minns has been accused of breaking an electoral promise that he would not introduce any new taxes. 


Local Kiama MP Gareth Ward has also bitterly attacked the move. “There are two certainties in life, death, and higher taxes under Labor,” he told The Bugle.


“When people are grieving, the last thing they need to be worrying about is paying Chris Minns’s bill from burying a loved one. Chris Minns is the highest taxing Premier in our State’s history and all we see are cuts to projects in our area and money being splashed all over Sydney.

 

“Labor loves tax. Literally, from the cradle to the grave, this is another example of us paying more whilst the Sydney centric Labor Government expands the middle management of the State public service.

 

“Labor has always wanted to impose death duties. And this is just the start. Just watch these taxes increase over the years ahead.” 

 


The new impost has been confirmed by the regulator Cemeteries and Crematoria NSW (CCNSW), a statutory body under the NSW Government. The government claims that the new taxes are to fund its additional powers and operations, arrived at after years of consultation with the sector.


What has come as a shock is not the moves to strengthen oversight, but the taxes themselves, which were not expected. 


The association representing the state’s councils, Local Government NSW (LGNSW), has called on the Premier Chris Minns to step in and reverse the Government decision to impose a burial and cremation tax on the community, particularly during a cost of living crisis.


President Darriea Turley said the levy was just the latest example of cost-shifting by the State Government.


“Across NSW, council cemeteries undertake more than 40 percent of all burials,” she said. 


“This rises to more than 80 percent of all burials in rural and regional NSW so this unnecessary new tax will hit our rural and regional communities the hardest.


“The announcement of this new impost on councils and communities also makes a mockery of the NSW Government’s commitment to seriously consider the impacts of cost shifting, and comes at the same time the NSW parliament is undertaking hearings for its review of local government financial sustainability.”


The State Government announced the levy just before Easter this year, advising that the costs were to fund the increased regulation of the interment industry. At the time, LGNSW called on the Government to fund the regulation from its core budget rather than seek to recoup costs from operators, including local councils. 


Now, with the imminent implementation of the tax confirmed, the local government sector says the timelines are simply unworkable.


“Our councils will not have time to properly exhibit and approve any fee increase to cover this, as required under the Local Government Act,” Councillor Turley said. “At the same time, we simply cannot absorb this levy into current operational budgets. 



“Whether this year or next, councils will therefore have to pass on the levy to their residents and community members, making interment services more expensive for grieving individuals and families who are going through one of the most challenging circumstances of their lives.”


“Quite frankly, the announcement of this levy is premature and ill-considered, with key design and implementation features remaining unresolved” said Cr Turley.


Lands Minister Steve Kamper says multiple rounds of consultation have been held. “For years, we have seen horror story after horror story, family after family, report after report tell us we need to fix the long-running crisis in NSW cemeteries and crematoria,” he has previously said. 


“We need a strong cop on the beat - for too long customers have been left unprotected at a time when they are most vulnerable.” 

 

Michael Malone, Director of Infrastructure and Liveability said, “Kiama Council is required to pay the new NSW Interment Service Levy as a licenced cemetery operator. As Council does not have the financial capacity to absorb this additional levy, we have to pass on the cost in full to our customers.”