Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 3 Hansard (8 March) . . Page.. 834..
MR SMYTH (continuing):
That this bill be agreed to in principle.
This bill has been developed in response to the national competition policy review of the Cemeteries Act 1933 and the Cremation Act 1966. The report examined the ACT cemeteries and cremation legislation to ensure the protection of public cemeteries and the management of public cemeteries and private burial grounds occurs as effectively and as efficiently as possible in accordance with national competition policy.
The government has accepted two of the consultant's three major recommendations. It has agreed to streamline the legislation governing cemeteries and cremation in the ACT, including removing outdated parts of the legislation and regulations and consolidating the two acts into one. It will also remove the legislative restriction which limits the right to ownership and operation of all ACT cemeteries to the Canberra Public Cemeteries Trust, allowing the possibility for privately operated cemeteries.
However, the government did not accept the recommendation to limit post-burial tenure at public cemeteries. Private cemeteries will be free to offer a variety of services that will reflect market demand.
The objective of the bill is to establish a consistent and contemporary framework for the regulation of cemeteries and crematoria in the ACT, replacing the outdated acts. I will now deal with the key features of the bill.
The minister may determine one or more codes of practice dealing with the operation of cemeteries and/or crematoria. These codes of practice would be disallowable instruments.
Another key features is the perpetual care trust. This is one of the more innovative features of the bill. The most important issue in the provision of cemetery or crematorium services is the funding of ongoing and future maintenance. Under the proposed perpetual care trust a percentage of the cost of each interment or memorialisation is invested in a trust fund which can then pay for the maintenance. The success of a perpetual care fund depends on whether the initial interment levy is high enough, the skills with which it will be managed and the standards of maintenance of the cemetery. Although there is no financial arrangement that can guarantee against fraud or mismanagement, the advantage of such a fund is that maintenance specific funds become identifiable and auditable and their adequacy can be monitored and assessed.
A cemetery or crematorium operator would be required to set aside in a specified account (the perpetual care fund) a percentage of all future interment fees to fund ongoing cemetery or crematorium maintenance. The minister would specify the percentage. This account would be part of a cemetery's or crematorium's assets and would transfer to a new operator. The government is ensuring the ongoing viability of the perpetual care fund because the money deposited in the fund will not be able to be used to pay an operator's general debts or be used to justify a judgment against the operator.
Another key feature will be improvement notices. The purpose of an improvement notice is to enable the chief executive to require an operator of a cemetery or a crematorium to carry out improvements such as structural work or repairs to upgrade the facility so that