The AU has a real estate problem, but the most expensive plots of real estate in the country isn’t for homes or for businesses, it’s for graves. In what might be an explanation for the preference for cremation and cremation urns; inch-for-inch, burial plots have the highest associated costs in the country.
About one-third of all departed Aussies opt for burial instead of cremation, which has lead to expert projections forecasting that a lot of Australian cities will run out of space within the next two or three decades.
Tight supply is already driving up prices, like in Melbourne General Cemetery, where a 2m2 grave already costs $14,585, a “Platinum” grave worth triple that, without funeral costs. Another good example is Sydney’s Rookwood, the largest cemetery in the country, and the whole southern hemisphere, running between $8,000-$40,000 currently, prices are expected to go up as space runs out.
According to a UNSW researcher, Kate Ryan, two major factors are leading to the shortfall.
First, the researcher says, is that East Coast cities, like Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane, are permanent, in contrast to the West Coast cities, like Adelaide and Perth, which are leased for a limited amount of time, for 25, 50, or 100 years. The East Coast cities are more crowded, and may be forced to follow their West Coast counterparts.
Second, is that the majority of major city cemetery space was set aside more than a century ago, with minimal additions and planning added in recent times, in spite of the booming population.
The UNSW researcher says that there are two options; find more land, or use what’s available more intelligently, or resort to other options, like cremation urns or the like. The researcher says that this is a new issue that Sydney and the other cities are facing; that there isn’t much planning or attention paid to cemetery spaces compared to residential projects.
Sydney is projected to hit a problem with supply and demand within the next 3 decades, as its 710 hectares of cemetery space run out. Brisbane, meanwhile, is expected to run out within the current generation, despite the 200 hectares within the city.
Melbourne has 1011 hectares of land set aside for graves, but is projected to go through half of it by 2035. According to the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services, more space is needed for graves past 2048 should the current trend stay.