A working party has called on the council to stop the expression of interest process around the potential sale or lease of the crematorium and lawn cemetery.
The Tender Funerals Working Party convener, Celia Kershaw, has urged Port Macquarie-Hastings Council to stop the expression of interest process and consult with the community.
The working party, formed to look at the feasibility of a Tender Funerals franchise in the Hastings, was concerned to discover the council had tested market interest in the council-owned Innes Gardens Memorial Park Crematorium and Lawn Cemetery's potential sale or lease.
A decision over the next step has yet to be made.
"We feel very strongly that the community has entrusted council with caring for its dead," Mrs Kershaw said.
"This is an obligation which needs to be honoured.
"We are concerned that this will not be guaranteed with privatisation of the cemetery."
The council in October 2018 decided to seek formal expressions of interest from providers of funeral, cemetery, crematoria and related services to explore the potential sale or long-term lease of either the entire Innes Gardens Crematorium and Lawn Cemetery or the crematorium alone.
Council director Rebecca Olsen, in March 2019, assured the community that first and foremost, the council's focus would be on ensuring that our loved-ones were looked after, and if council were to enter into a sale or lease arrangement in the future, that party would be required to provide for the perpetual care, protection and management of existing burial and cremation remains.
"Ongoing services must continue to be delivered to the standard required by the community and this testing of the market aims to explore all options, securing the long-term sustainability of the Innes Gardens Memorial Park facility," Ms Olsen said in March.
Mrs Kershaw believes privatisation of the crematorium itself would be likely to increase cremation costs to the community.
"There is an awful lot of people on low incomes in this area," she said.
"I would have thought it was an issue of great importance of council to ensure affordable funerals are available to the community."
Mrs Kershaw encouraged the councillors to think carefully before selling off an asset which was of such importance to the whole community.
She urged concerned community members to contact the councillors.
Meanwhile, Tender Funerals is a non-profit organisation with a goal to provide low-cost funerals with particular attention to the grieving and healing process.
It provides services in Berry, Nowra, Shoalhaven, Kiama, Wollongong and the greater Illawarra.
Tender Funerals director and general manager Jenny Briscoe-Hough was the guest speaker at the Mid North Coast Dying with Dignity NSW meeting in late May.
The Tender Funerals Working Group is keen to establish a council-community team to investigate the provision of a low-cost funeral service to the district.
But the working group believes that partnership would be difficult, if not impossible, if the council went down the track of leasing or selling the crematorium and lawn cemetery.
The group, during a meeting with the council, will also raise its concerns about the crematorium and lawn cemetery potential sale or lease.
The council confirmed it had received contact from the working group and a meeting had been organised for Thursday, June 13.
What else is making news?
While you're with us, you can now receive updates straight to your inbox from the Port Macquarie News. To make sure you're up to date with all the news, SIGN UP HERE.