$20,000 ‘DEATH TAX’
CHURCH FEARS UNINTENDED COST FROM BURIAL ACT CHANGES
TASMANIANS face a new “death tax” of up to $20,000 under the State Government’s proposed changes to the Burial and Cremation Act, Bishop Richard Condie says.
The state’s Anglican Bishop told the Sunday Tasmanian the shift of responsibility for burial plots from the family to a body corporate would require a fee to be charged to maintain cemeteries.
Dr Condie, right, said it would lift the cost of a grave from between $500 to $1000 to as high as $20,000.
“Should the Amendment Bill proceed in its current form there will be an unintended consequence that most Tasmanians will find it unaffordable to be buried with their loved ones or in their local cemetery,” he said.
“Our sums indicate this will cost approximately $140 per plot per year for 125 years, or $17,500.
“This will effectively function like a de facto death tax on the residents of rural and regional Tasmania.”
Dr Condie said increasing the length of time from the last burial before a cemetery could be closed, from 30 to 100 years, was the largest contributor to the increased cost.
“The only way to manage this liability for the anticipated life of the cemetery would be to charge those funds upfront,” he said.
In June the Anglican Di- ocesan Council voted to sell 108 properties, including 76 churches, to help fund a redress scheme for victims of childhood abuse.
In response to the significant community concern about the sale of graveyards, the Government committed to legislative changes to preserve, protect and strengthen the obligations on cemetery managers.
The proposed changes to the Act require new cemetery managers to be a body corporate with perpetual succession and not private individuals.
But it does not include a price ceiling, meaning cemetery managers would be free to charge families exorbitant fees to bury their loved ones.
This could mean people wanting to be buried next to a relative in a cemetery about to be sold by the Anglican Church would be taken advan- tage of because they don’t want to be laid to rest elsewhere.
Attorney-General Elise Archer said, when she released the draft Bill, that body corporates removed the risk of private individuals not being able “to continue managing the cemetery due to illness or death”.
The deadline for feedback on the draft legislation closes today.
The Diocesan Council will make a final decision on land sales in December.
The Government said it would introduce the changes into parliament before the end of the year to meet the church’s time frame.
Anglican parishioners have urged the church to delay the sales until April next year to relieve community stress and allow for clarity around the new legislation.
CONCERNS: Bishop Richard Condie outside St Luke’s Church in Latrobe.