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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 6 Hansard (16 May) . . Page.. 1689 ..

MR WOOD (continuing):

removal of the legislative restriction which limits the right to ownership and operation of all ACT cemeteries to the Canberra Public Cemeteries Trust.

However, the former government did not accept the recommendation to limit post-burial tenure of gravesites at public cemeteries. Private cemeteries would have been free to offer a variety of services that reflected market demand, which could have included limited post-burial tenure of gravesites.

This government has decided to accept the same two review recommendations and rejects the recommendation concerning limited post-burial tenure of gravesites. Perpetual tenure of gravesites will apply in all current and future cemeteries in the ACT, whether public or private, and it is intended to make regulations to this effect.

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a consistent and contemporary framework for the regulation of cemeteries and crematoria in the ACT, replacing the outdated Cemeteries Act 1933 and the Cremation Act 1966.

Codes of practice are another key feature of the bill. The minister may determine one or more codes of practice dealing with the operation of cemeteries and/or crematoria, and these codes of practice will be disallowable instruments.

Perpetual care trusts are one of the innovative features of this bill. The most important issue in 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 will be invested in a trust fund which can then be used to pay for maintenance.

The success of a perpetual care fund depends on whether the initial interment levy is high enough, the skill with which it is managed, and the standard of maintenance of the cemetery. Although no financial arrangement 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 satisfy a judgment against the operator.

I come to improvement notices. The purpose of an improvement notice is to enable the chief executive to require an operator of a cemetery or crematorium to carry out improvements such as structural work or repairs to upgrade the facility so that it complies with the required minimum standards. Where the chief executive is satisfied that the operator has contravened or is contravening the act, then a show cause notice may be issued, provided that the identified contravention does not constitute an offence against this bill.

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