The renewable tenure of gravesites at Sandgate Cemetery is among options under consideration as part of a government review of the state's cemeteries.
A report on the recent review of the Cemeteries and Crematoria Act 2013 also suggests that the Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney could take control of the state's Crown land cemeteries, which include Sandgate.
The statutory review seeks to address a critical shortage of burial sites in many of the state's major cemeteries as well as spiraling burial costs.
Sandgate Cemetery, the state's third largest cemetery, has been a member of the Northern Metropolitan Cemeteries Land Manager Board since 2014.
Other cemeteries managed by the board include Macquarie Park Cemetery, Frenchs Forest Cemetery, Gore Hill Cemetery and Field of Mars, all of which are based in Sydney.
The structure ensured Sandgate's day-to-day resourcing and capital expenses were effectively met.
At the time it was introduced the government said the structure would "ensure that Sandgate has funds to achieve its goals for the next 60 to 70 years.''
However, the cemetery's membership of the board was not renewed in November last year without a formal explanation.
The State Government is under increasing pressure to respond to the review's report "The 11th hour: Solving Sydney's cemetery crisis", in order to provide certainty about the resourcing and management of the state's major cemeteries.
The report's recommendations include consolidating the state's five existing cemetery trusts into a single Crown trust - known as OneCrown - to place the sector on a "sustainable basis".
It estimates merging the trusts would reduce 30 per cent of existing inefficiencies and provide a standardised level of maintenance. It would also assist in funding net liabilities, estimated to be in excess of $310 million.
The Sydney-based Catholic Cemeteries Board has been identified as a potential manager of OneCrown.
"OneCrown - the current manager of Catholic Metropolitan Cemetery Trust, Catholic Cemeteries Board Ltd (CCB) would be appointed as the operator of the cemeteries and crematoria of OneCrown. CCB would receive an annual payment in recognition of undertaking the operations of these assets." the review report says of the option.
While the option would create a consolidated skills-based board and management structure, the Catholic Church's dominance would also be likely to be problematic for other faith groups and people of no faith.
Friends of Sandgate public officer and former Northern Metropolitan Cemeteries Land Manager Board member Peter Owens said the review could have potentially major implications for the cemetery's future.
"The forceful recommendations around renewable tenure burials will concern many in the community," Mr Owens said.
"The Review concentrates on Sydney, to the extent that details of Sandgate as a part of the current Northern Metropolitan Cemeteries Land Manager are deliberately excluded from the report.
"To this point there has been no consultation with anyone from Newcastle, so far as I am aware, even though Sandgate will be bound up in the outcome."
"A cemetery taskforce is to be formed to assess the Review and it will be important for the voice of the community to be heard and I look forward to knowing more about the composition and proposed operation of the taskforce."
Newcastle MP Tim Crakanthorp, who has asked numerous questions in Parliament about Sandgate, said the government's delay in responding to the review report was suspicious.
"Two board places have been empty for almost three years now, and with the government dragging its heels so hard on this, you can't help but wonder if there is an ulterior motive here," he said.
A spokeswoman for Water, Property and Housing Minister Melinda Pavey said the government would respond to the review's report "soon".
"The review aims to ensure that structures and measures are in place to ensure that Crown cemeteries can operate as effectively as possible and meet the future internment needs of their local communities," she said.
"There are no plans to put NSW Crown cemeteries out to tender."
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