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    Grave concerns over Sydney's burial spaces

    Faced with the prospect of not having sufficient space to bury the deceased, many cemeteries are exploring a range of ideas to be able to accomodate our growing necropolises.

    Sydney’s Rookwood cemetery for example, considered the largest in Australia, is currently discussing plans to build a multi-storeyed mausoleum with its existing space unable to accommodate any more burials beyond 18 months. 

    The multi-storey mausoleum trend

    The Eastern Suburbs Cemetery (near Matraville in Sydney) is not only planning a catacomb structure but also considering the feasibility of using old coal storage bunkers to add extra subterranean floors to the catacomb, similar to a multi-storeyed carpark.

    While the high-rise trend in building is addressing the increasing demand for residential space in urban areas, cemeteries are still unprepared to cater to this population, says Graham Boyd, the chief executive of the South Metropolitan Cemeteries Trust.

    Burial space at inner Sydney cemeteries such as Waverley, also in Sydney's east could run out in another two years, while most cemeteries across metropolitan Sydney would be unable to accept any new request for burial by 2051.

    No more space in the Cities of the Dead

    Cemeteries in the central, north and southern parts of the city would be full by 2036. 

    Cemeteries are turning to innovative solutions to address the serious space crunch for burials, including encouraging cremation, multiple use of a burial space by members of the same family, prefabricated burial systems, multi-storeyed mausoleums with crypts, and even soil conditioning to speed up decomposition.

    Breathing new life into cemetry design

    The idea of the traditional cemetery is being turned on its head with new spaces being planned to accommodate the dead as well as create an environment that celebrates life through community events and festivals.

    For instance, a new cemetery in Victoria is taking a fresh look at the whole business of the dead by creating a green community space for the living. In doing so, it positively impacts the value of neighbouring residential properties while transforming people’s understanding of a cemetery.

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