Griffith City Council have been warned a council-provided crematorium could leave ratepayers footing the bill for an unused site if a private provider comes to the city during a community forum into the new cemetery's masterplan.
Council held a virtual community forum over social networking site Facebook on Thursday evening where members of council along with those involved with the development of the masterplan fielded questions from the community regarding a proposed new cemetery along Rifle Range Road.
The forum comes as the public submission period for comments on council's New Cemetery and Crematorium masterplan looks to close on July 31 and during the forum Changing Places CEO Russell Allison - who is assisting with the development of the masterplan - warned council that a council-provided crematorium may eventually leave them with an asset which makes no money should a private provider move into the market.
"Funeral directors have created their own crematoriums, often in industrial situations rather than at public facilities - but that's quite appropriate and quite legal," Mr Allison said.
"But what its' done is effectively leave the councils with an asset which is not used sufficiently to make it pay its' own way.
"In an ideal world, if your community wants a crematorium on site, a way forward that might be really worth considering is a partnership with some of the local funeral directors - what that might help insulate against is council outlaying quite a bit of money to start one up and then finding in 5 or 10 years the rug has been pulled out from underneath it because somebody installs one in Griffith themselves."
Mr Allison pointed to a scenario which played out in Wollongong where the city's council had provided a crematorium for three decades before a private provider constructed their own and saw the public crematorium fall into dis-use.
"They were either faced with an enormous cost to refurbish it and make it compliant with current environmental standards because it was - I think one would generously describe it as 'antiquated', or to shut it down," Mr Allison said.
"They chose to shut it down because when they did the feasibility work on it they couldn't make it pay."
Deputy mayor and chairman of council's new cemetery committee Doug Curran said a start to construction work for the new cemetery is planned to begin in five years time, once the city's current cemetery capacity is reached.
"[A] start will depend a lot on how much longevity we have in the current site - we think we have anywhere between 5 to 10 years," Councillor Curran said.
"However, if we were to get some sort of crematorium facility that may be extended by up to another five years ... we would expect stage one works to start out there in around five years - there's a lot of planning going on at the moment but that's the expectation I think.
"This isn't a presentation, this isn't decided ... this is a process that we can take feedback from the community and change the design to try and make it more accepted by a wider section of the community.
"I know there' some petitions out there at the moment and once we get all of that feedback we will be able to make a more informed decision."
Architect behind the proposed design of the new cemetery Florence Jacquet said the site has a proposed location for a crematorium and "there has been extensive consultation both with stakeholders and the community" with one of the most commonly received pieces of feedback being an on-site crematorium.
During the forum, community members also inquired about the feasibility of a public mausoleum and whether the new site will have war graves, disabled access and bathrooms.