The need to plan for the shortage of burial space presents a timely opportunity to reconsider how we bury. Recent legislative changes in NSW introduced provisions for the re-use of an older grave once the tenure period expires. Renewable tenure creates the opportunity to provide ongoing cemetery capacity.
Renewable tenure is uncommon in Australia. The majority of burial plots are still sold in perpetuity, meaning a grave remains untouched forever.
Have you ever considered that your grave could later become someone else’s? Would you buy a grave for you parents for a limited number of years, or would you choose a grave that you could visit for the rest of your life and your children’s lives?
These are difficult questions to ponder. Additionally, disturbing a personal and sacred space for the dead typically does not sit well with the public. A grave is often thought of as a “final resting place”.
An important question is whether the bereaved seek comfort in memorialising the deceased in perpetuity, or is a physical space for mourning only required for an initial period of time. Considering that grave visitations often cease after 40 to 50 years, is it reasonable to assume that the significance of a grave varies over time?
When the opinions of younger adults (aged 20-30) on grave re-use were surveyed by one of the authors, 72 per cent of respondents indicated that they were unaware of this practice. However, respondents recognised links to several urban issues, including sustainable land consumption and growth pressures in cities.
Respondents also expressed interest in other burial trends, such as natural burial parks, where physical memorials are limited and the natural environment remains largely unaltered. Despite a discussion on burial practices, 68 per cent said they wanted to be cremated. If cremation rates do rise in the future, this could essentially mean less urban land is needed for burials.
A conversation about burial preferences and new burial trends will improve understanding and provide direction on the future demand for burial land and the future form of the cemetery landscape.
Kate Ryan is a researcher and planning Consultant at Urbis. Christine Steinmetz is a senior lecturer in built environment at UNSW.
This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article here.