Key messages

  • New crematoria require approval from the department’s Secretary.
  • Cemetery trusts must submit a detailed proposal for a new crematorium to the department.
  • In 2004, the Marsden report found that new crematoria will not be required in the Melbourne metropolitan area until about 2050.
  • The report recommended that the department and cemetery trusts focus on maintaining and improving pre-existing crematoria for the next 20–30 years, rather than considering establishing new facilities.

Crematoria – statutory requirements

Under s. 21 of the Cemeteries and Crematoria Act 2003, a cemetery trust requires the prior approval in writing of the Secretary to the department in order to establish a crematorium in a public cemetery for which it is responsible.

Crematorium industry review

A report by Marsden Jacob and Associates, in conjunction with Spatial Vision and Cumpston Serjeant Truslove, reviewed the viability of the Victorian cremation industry and was presented to the department in November 2004.

A key objective was to provide a clear basis for the Secretary to evaluate proposals from cemetery trusts to establish new crematorium facilities.

The Victorian Cremation Industry Viability Report, also known as the ‘Marsden report’ is available for download.

Marsden report – key findings

The Marsden report noted that almost all crematoria were operating at around one-quarter to one-half capacity.

It concluded that ‘research undertaken for the project has not revealed any evidence in support of the need for additional crematoria in Victoria. The current mix of crematoria in Victoria adequately serves the needs of the market. The industry has sufficient capacity to continue to serve those needs for at least the next 40–50 years’.

Specific findings of the Marsden report were as follows:

  • Irrespective of the future demands for cremations, the current industry has the capacity to service demand until close to 2051.
  • Given that existing capacity in the metropolitan area is sufficient to meet forecast demand until at least 2040–2050, new cremation facilities will not be warranted in the Melbourne metropolitan area within the forecast period.
  • The establishment of new facilities in some non-metropolitan regions would have significant potential to increase cremation rates in those regions. However, any proposed new crematorium facilities must first meet the evaluation criteria of being viable in their own right.

In light of these findings, the report recommended that the department and cemetery trusts focus on maintaining and improving pre-existing crematoria for the next 20–30 years, rather than considering establishing new facilities.

Applications for approval of new crematoria

In considering applications for approval of new crematoria, the department will take into account policy considerations relevant in the particular circumstances, including:

  • the need to ensure the cost-effective use of public funds in relation to cemeteries, which will generally include ensuring the efficient use of existing infrastructure such as crematoria
  • the need to meet the needs of the community in relation to cremation services, including by providing an appropriate level of access to these facilities.

As noted in the Marsden report, unless market conditions change substantially, it appears that there are currently sufficient cremation facilities available in the Melbourne metropolitan area to meet the level of demand for such services in the foreseeable future. Applications seeking to establish additional crematoria in the Melbourne metropolitan area would therefore need to take the findings in the Marsden report into account, and clearly demonstrate why those findings are not valid or not relevant in the particular case.

Any application for approval of a new crematorium should provide a convincing business case to support the proposal and clearly demonstrate that:

  • the applicant has considered the Marsden report in detail and has addressed all relevant findings and evidence in that report
  • the proposed crematorium will be viable in its own right
  • there is a need for the proposed crematorium (such as a real difficulty in accessing cremation services) that cannot be met by existing cremation facilities. Data should be provided to support this proposition.

If a cemetery trust believes other considerations are relevant, or that the above factors are inapplicable in the particular circumstances of the case, this should be included in the application together with sufficient supporting evidence.