The Guardian reports (11th Oct 2021) that the plan to put burial grounds under the control of a single body has engulfed religious groups and pitted NSW government ministers against each other.
On the one side are the advocates for the OneCrown proposal:
The OneCrown proposal
A report, ominously titled 11th Hour: Solving Sydney’s Cemetery Crisis, which was handed to the government last year, warned that the problem of new cemeteries was urgent and could no longer be ignored.
“Some of the cemeteries that have served Sydney for a century will close within three years and all existing operational crown cemeteries will close to new burials within 10-12 years,” it found. “This is much sooner than previous timeframes indicated and requires immediate action.”
It recommended that the government set up OneCrown, a single body to run all the cemeteries, instead of the current five trusts, which include the CMCT, which is controlled by the Catholic archdiocese of Sydney.
This, it said, would lower overhead costs and was in line with the Ipart report into the costs of interment in NSW.
Ipart found that the cemeteries on crown land were not run very efficiently by the five trusts that control them. There was little transparency for consumers, who were often making a purchase at a very stressful time.
The OneCrown option has the support of Investment NSW, the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment, and Pavey, the minister for crown lands.
Supporters of the OneCrown option say the reason the Catholic trust is in better financial shape is because of the youth of its cemeteries, while the other trusts, all government-owned, are dealing with older cemeteries that are nearly full.
Winners and Losers
On the other side there is the Catholic Metropolitan Cemeteries Trust (CMCT);
The Catholic church has continued to push alternative proposals – the latest being the “two-operator” model, which would mean the Catholic Cemeteries Board Ltd (CCB) would maintain its hold on the cemeteries currently run by the CMCT.
The Catholic Cemeteries Board member Danny Casey, a management consultant and a former adviser to Cardinal George Pell, who spent two years in Rome between 2014 and 2016 helping Pell overhaul the Vatican finances, is just one of those leading the charge.
Also on the Catholic Cemeteries Board is the former attorney general Greg Smith, a staunch Catholic.
They have brought in the heavy-hitters of the lobbying world to assist: Michael Photios, the ex-Liberal politician and former convener of the moderates, and one of Sydney’s best-connected spin doctors, Tim Allerton.
In June, when Pavey threatened to appoint an administrator to the CMCT, the trust responded with a threat of an injunction.
Pavey has now been effectively sidelined and the former deputy premier, John Barilaro, has been chairing meetings with stakeholders.
The Greek Orthodox and Jewish communities also have a stake in the outcome.
The NSW Jewish Board of Deputies says it just wants a sustainable long-term solution that will clear the way for work on new cemeteries to start.
“We don’t want winners and losers,” the board’s chief executive, Darren Bark, says. “We are focusing on the community side of this and it’s the results that matter. Experience should also be taken into account.”
It is understood the Jewish community, which requires a much smaller number of burial sites, has secured an agreement for sites for the next 25 years.
The CMCT is operating under extensions to its legislation. The latest extension runs out on 30 December.
“We are committed to finding a solution that gives the people of NSW access to affordable, faith-appropriate burial services,” Pavey says.
There is more to this story, which you can read on the Guardian's website: