The scarcity of burial places in sought-after cemeteries in Wollongong has spawned an after-market in graves, with a double plot being advertised for as much as $35,000.
The demand has come about because Wollongong residents who choose to be buried once they die now have little choice where their final resting place will be.
A survey of burial capacity shows Wollongong cemetery is full, Bulli cemetery is full, and Wombarra is not taking reservations any more. Apart from Helensburgh, which has 10 per cent capacity remaining, the Wollongong Lawn Cemetery at Kembla Grange is the only option for new burial reservations.
Wollongong City Council said it is satisfied the 50ha Kembla Grange facility has enough capacity for “200 years”. But with Bulli full, northern residents may have little choice but to rest in peace a long way from where they lived their lives.
Plots at the oceanside Bulli cemetery, where burials commenced in 1876, have also been advertised on classified ads site Gumtree for $7,500, with the claim of the “last plot available in the Bulli cemetery”. “As the cemetery has closed this is a great opportunity,” the ad said.
It is now marked “sold”.
The $35,000 price tag is on a double site with a large monument in the Catholic section of Wollongong cemetery. The photo on Gumtree shows a “for sale” sign stuck on the headstone.
Asked if burial capacity issues created problems, a Wollongong City Council spokeswoman said only that the city had sufficient “for the next 200 years”.
“While Wollongong and Bulli cemeteries are at capacity and there is limited space remaining at Helensburgh and Scarborough cemeteries, the Kembla Grange Lawn Cemetery is able to meet long term future needs of our community,” she said.
The Mercury also asked the council if there were many unused reservations filling space at Bulli but this question was not answered.
Residents of Shellharbour find themselves in a somewhat more comfortable position when it comes to choosing a post-life residence, but it too has but one cemetery where new burial reservations are being taken.
The old Albion Park cemetery has been closed for some time, and while the Shellharbour Cemetery is fully booked, not all of these plots have been used.
The newer cemetery on Croome Rd is about 25 per cent occupied, and 30 per cent sold, a Shellharbour council spokeswoman said.
“The recent road work in there is allowing us to open up new areas over the coming years with works budgeted in this financial year to install beams in the areas the road has given us access to,” she said.