Illawarra residents who die are three times more likely to be cremated than they are to be buried, the latest statistics on cemeteries and cremations show.
In 2014/15, across the Wollongong, Shellharbour, Kiama and Shoalhaven council areas there were more than 2400 cremations, but only 817 burials.
According to the state’s Cemeteries and Crematoria NSW (CCNSW) agency, this puts the region’s cremation rate – of 74.9 per cent – as the third highest in the state, second only to the Central Coast and Hunter regions.
Across the state, 67 per cent of people who died in 2014/15 were cremated.
According to the report, the Illawarra has 20 cemeteries and three crematoria, which means – if divided equally – each of the latter holds 811 cremations a year.
Each cemetery holds an average of 41 burials.
The two Wollongong crematoriums are at Lakeside Memorial Park and Crematorium at Kanahooka and the Wollongong council run crematorium Unanderra.
There is also a facility in Worigee, south of Nowra.
Despite their relative popularity, Wollongong council has reconsidered its role in running one of the few crematoria in the region over the past 10 years.
In 2009 the council considered privatising the asset due to a $500,000 replacement bill, and in 2013, a controversial citizens panel – brought in to advise ways the council could save money – said the council should “exit” the crematorium business.
Explaining the decision, one of the resident panellists said it was reaching the end of its useful life and wpould be costly to replace.
This year, as the council considers its 2017/18 annual plan, planning for the future of the ageing cremator at Unanderra is listed as a major project.
Interestingly, the CCNSW report shows that, for the grouped Illawarra, Hunter and Central Coast regions, the “ash disposition rate” (the percentage of ashes which are interred or scattered at a cemetery) is less than a third (30.8 per cent).
This means, in almost 70 per cent of cremations, there is no clear data on when the ashes go.