MidCoast Council is proposing the harmonisation of cemetery fees across the region, with a report due to be prepared at the November council meeting.
The report was given a due date at the June 26 ordinary council meeting held in the Forster council chambers, inline with the approval of council's fees and charges for the 2019/20 financial year.
According to council's manager of community spaces, recreation and trades, Dan Aldridge, the report is to help councillors understand the issue of harmonising cemetery fees across the region.
Council staff will prepare a report providing information on the fees and charges currently charged for cemeteries across the Mid Coast region and the intended price path for cemetery fees going forward.
"Cemetery fees for the former three areas were different and council has been moving towards a process of harmonising these fees," Mr Aldridge said.
Council explained that the fees for graves in Gloucester are dearer in the 2019-20 budget than in the Manning and Great Lakes regions because Gloucester fees were higher at the time of merger.
"Council will be proposing a uniform fee for cemetery charges across the area in the 2020-21 financial year, and this will require changes to the fees in the Great Lakes and Manning to deliver a single cost across the local government area."
Community members in Gloucester raised concerns about the 50 per cent fee hike price for a headstone, kerbing or a slab over a grave in Gloucester cemeteries listed as part of the proposed fees and charges for the 2019/20 financial year.
Gloucester cemeteries are already the most expensive place in the region to bury a loved one and there were questions raised as to why. When council was asked about the reasoning behind the price increase, the answer was "harmonisation". This term has been used by MidCoast Council since the 2016 forced merger of the former Gloucester, Great Lakes and Greater Taree councils as a way of explaining changes to fees and procedures.
Three Gloucester residents made submissions to council against the proposed price hike for the new financial year prior to council voting on its adoption at the June 26 meeting.
Regardless of public opinion, the fees and charges were approved, without objection, by council along with the request to have a report on the cemetery fees brought to council's November meeting.
Deputy mayor, Katheryn Smith was one of the councillors behind ensuring the report was given a due date as the rising cost of Gloucester's cemetery fees as been a concern of hers for some time.
She first brought the matter up when she was appointed to the Local Representation Committee (LRC) in 2016 while council was being run under administration prior to the first election of councillors. During that time, she was able to keep the fees from increasing, but was unable to get an investigation into the charges across the line.
"The cemetery fees have different components to each area," Cr Smith said. "I am eager for the report to understand the true costs for the whole region."
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