Following the recommendations of a comprehensive review commissioned by the NSW Government of the cemeteries and crematoria sector, the NSW minister for Water, Property and Housing Melinda Pavey has written to the Catholic Metropolitan Cemeteries Trust to put on hold the ongoing construction work at the Macarthur Memorial Park in Sydney.

The ground-breaking ceremony for the multi-denominational Macarthur Memorial Park took place more than a year ago with the first sod turned by representatives of the operator Catholic Cemeteries + Crematoria (CC+C) along with key members of the NSW government, industry and community leaders. Construction began in May 2020 on the world-class memorial park designed by FJLA, with plans to establish 136,000 burial plots over the next 100 years. The park is designed to address the needs of Sydney’s diverse multicultural population.

The latest development comes amidst the current burial space crisis in Sydney where many operational Crown cemeteries will close to new burials within 10-12 years.

While the report, ‘The 11th Hour – Solving Sydney’s Cemetery Crisis’ recommended immediate action in three key areas: consolidation of the five existing cemetery trusts into a single Crown trust, acquisition of land for new cemeteries, and strengthening of the industry regulator, it alos identified financial and operational risks as well as deficiencies in the current governance arrangements, particularly the accountability and transparency measures relating to Crown operators.

Key findings of the report concluded that the shortage of burial space in Sydney had major implications for NSW and its residents, and posed a significant financial risk to the State’s finances, with unfunded liabilities of the Crown sector in excess of $300 million and the required capital to build new cemeteries approximately being $200-300 million.

However other parts of the report note this land shortage would make burials unaffordable for some sections of the community, and could lead to the collapse of the Crown sector, ceding control of the market to one vertically integrated private sector participant.

However, the implementation of these reforms would place the sector on a sustainable basis, able to fund its liabilities and develop new cemeteries without the need for new capital from the NSW Government. Additionally, the recommended reforms could create a multi-billion dollar asset for the State, the report says.