Page 977 - Week 04 - Tuesday, 15 March 2005

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The Cemeteries and Crematoria Act 2003 and its regulations came into effect on 27 September 2003. Under section 10 of the act, the former Minister for Urban Services, Mr Bill Wood, was required to determine a suitable perpetual care trust—PCT—percentage for each cemetery and crematorium.

A perpetual care trust is a perpetual charitable trust established under the act to ensure that cemeteries and crematoria will be adequately maintained in perpetuity after they close for new burials, interments of ashes and memorials. Currently under the act, each operator of a cemetery or crematorium must open a PCT trust fund account at an authorised deposit-taking institution—an ADI—for example, a bank or similar. The PCT percentage is the proportion of income received by the operator for each burial or interment service that must be invested in the fund to guarantee that future maintenance costs are covered.

The Assembly resolved to ensure perpetual tenure by amending the act so that when someone is given a right of burial or interment of ashes, that right lasts forever. However, given that that right has been established, there are so far only limited guarantees that there will be sufficient amounts in PCT funds for maintenance once a cemetery or crematorium closes.

In 2003, Abraxa Management Consulting Pty Ltd was engaged to develop a long-term financial model and provide independent advice regarding perpetual care trust management, including calculating the percentages of income to be invested in the trusts to ensure that cemeteries and crematoria will be adequately maintained.

On 28 September 2003, at the same time as the act commenced, former Minister Wood determined the PCT percentages that included a component covering future capital costs of maintenance. Also, policy agreement was given for the act to be further amended to allow for operators to invest their PCT funds at higher rates of return and for a review of PCT percentages to be conducted at least every five years.

Mr Speaker, as the Minister for Urban Services, it gives me great pleasure to present this bill to further amend the Cemeteries and Crematoria Act 2003 to ensure that there is an improved, clear and consistent legal basis for the continued operation of the PCT funds and the PCT reserve. Significantly, this bill sets a new benchmark in Australia for the management of cemeteries and crematoria.

These amendments propose that the minister should also determine a PCT reserve percentage, equivalent to the PCT reserve amount, which is to be deposited into a separate account in each PCT trust fund. These amendments establish the way in which the PCT reserve amounts are preserved and managed, and how safeguards ensuring maintenance in perpetuity are to be achieved. They set out the legal obligations of the cemetery and crematoria operators, including how they contribute to, keep records of and manage the trust funds, as well as the responsibilities of the public trustee and the minister.

The bill will amend the act and provide that the PCT percentages apply to the total amount of money collected for each burial, interment of ashes or memorialisation by cemetery or crematoria operators for these services. Cemetery and crematoria operators

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