A NSW Government website

Fixing the long-running crisis in NSW Cemeteries and Crematoria

28 Mar 2024

The NSW Government has today acted to fix the long-running crisis in NSW cemeteries and crematoria sector with improved consumer protections for customers and communities while providing long-term certainty for the sector.

Under the former government, the cemeteries and crematoria sector were severely mismanaged, allowing indecision and infighting to trump the needs of people at their most vulnerable when they have just lost a loved one.

Instead, they let a problem evolve into a crisis that left multiple religious groups set to run out of burial space within 3 years, crown cemetery operators accumulating more than $300 million in debt, and rogue operators left largely unregulated in the sector to prey on vulnerable individuals.

The former Government failed to implement key recommendations from the Statutory Review of the Cemeteries and Crematoria Act 11th Hour Report, including to ensure the sustainability of Crown operators, which was handed down in 2020.

The NSW Government is addressing this crisis by acting on the recommendations of the IPART review and the Statutory Review’s 11th Hour Report. The priority areas identified in the strategic statement include:

  • Strong consumer protection for customers and communities;
  • Supporting sustainable burial practices and identifying more cemetery land;
  • And providing certainty for managing Crown cemeteries by finalising a two-operator model.

Changes being implemented in response to the reports are focused on strengthening the industry regulator Cemeteries & Crematoria NSW (CCNSW), allowing it to proactively address bad operators, improve consumer protections and manage risks for the government and community.

To support this the government will implement a recommendation from IPART and the Statutory Review of the Cemeteries and Crematoria Act to expand the former Government’s Interment Industry Levy from Crown cemeteries to all active industry operators, driving equity and levelling the field in the sector. Revenue from the levy will be no higher than that required to provide the regulator with the resources it needs required to protect consumers at a particularly vulnerable time.

This change will come into effect on 1 July 2024. Cemeteries and Crematoria NSW will begin consulting with industry shortly through in-person workshops and webinars commencing 9 April 2024.

To give further confidence, the government will also:

  • Develop a contemporary approach for the perpetual maintenance of cemeteries so enough funding is set aside by cemeteries to keep them adequately maintained into the future.
  • Investigate legislative changes that can further modernise and streamline the Cemeteries and Crematoria Act 2013 to better support consumers and industry.

CCNSW is also currently rolling out a statewide licensing scheme for cemeteries and crematoria - the first ever for NSW – that sets new performance standards and consumer protections.

This new scheme will benefit consumers by providing more transparency around pricing and contracts, setting standards for maintenance and customer service and ensuring compliance with religious, cultural and spiritual requirements.

These standards will be further strengthened through clear rules and support to ensure cemeteries and crematoria remain financially sustainable and are operated and maintained in a consistent, transparent, and accountable way.

Operators will be required to have clear language and standard terms and conditions for contracts, which will also minimise the likelihood of rogue operators gouging vulnerable people.

The strategic statement has been published on the Cemeteries and Crematoria NSW website at www.cemeteries.nsw.gov.au

Minister for Lands and Property Steve Kamper said:

“We need a strong cop on the beat, for too long cemeteries were neglected by previous governments leading to a critical lack of supply for burial space in Sydney, with bad operators left unregulated and customers left vulnerable.

“We want all people in NSW to have access to sustainable and affordable burial and cremation services that are respectful of culture and faith, and which are provided in a compassionate, consistent, transparent, and accountable way.

“Losing a loved one can be the most difficult time in a person’s life. We need to lift the bar with stronger regulation and better planning to ensure cemetery and crematoria operators and the public have transparency around pricing, service quality and future certainty.

“The sector has joined us on this transformation, and we thank them for their contribution, and we will continue to engage in genuine consultation on this journey as we shape the future of internment services to better serve the people of NSW.”