$20,000 ‘DEATH TAX’

CHURCH FEARS UN­IN­TENDED COST FROM BURIAL ACT CHANGES

Sunday Tasmanian - - Front Page - JACK PAYN­TER

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.

Pic­ture: CHRIS KIDD

CON­CERNS: Bishop Richard Condie out­side St Luke’s Church in La­trobe.

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