cremationThe Esperance Express asks "Who knew death could be so lucrative?" in relation to the the apparent turf war that has erupted over the right to cremate the state's bodies, with some private funeral operators wanting Victoria to follow other states and allow them to build and operate crematoriums.

In Victoria only non-profit cemetery trusts, which are government regulated, can conduct cremations. As a result, cremations can cost more than double that charged in other states and some Victorian funeral homes have been sending bodies interstate to be cremated.

One funeral company director said the lowest cost of a cremation in Melbourne was about $800, while there were options in South Australia for less than $400.

Traditionally, the operation of cemeteries and crematoriums has been separate from the activities of funeral directors.

But controversy arose last year when the Southern Metropolitan Cemeteries Trust, which manages eight cemeteries, called for expressions of interest to provide mortuary services at its Bunurong Memorial Park in Dandenong South.

Australian Funeral Directors Association national president John Fowler said allowing cemeteries to encroach on the services of funeral directors would create an unfair market.

"We have to have the opportunity to compete with them by having our own crematoria. We think that's reasonable," he said.

The association has been urging the government to change the law so that private operators can own and operate crematoriums.

"Every funeral director will be affected if the government allows the cemeteries to build mortuaries on their premises," Mr Fowler said. 

Southern Metropolitan Cemeteries Trust chief executive Jane Grover said the trust had not tried to impinge on the activities of funeral directors.

But she said there should be no change to the current arrangement, whereby cemetery trusts have exclusivity over cremations.

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