Crematorium spat ratchets up

By John Cousins

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Outspoken Tauranga councillor Murray Guy has been accused of seeking the media spotlight in a war of words over council plans to add a $225,000 lounge to the chapel at Pyes Pa Crematorium.

The spat is with the former owner of Legacy Funerals, Greg Brownless, whose criticisms last week prompted a terse response from Cr Guy: "I can't believe the gall of the gentleman."

It follows council decisions to protect its financial position since Legacy ended the council's monopoly on cremations. The council has since spent $50,000 upgrading its chapel and planned to build a function room where people could gather.

Cr Guy said it was galling that Mr Brownless was criticising the project when, during his time as a councillor, he helped determine policy that the cemeteries operation would be self-funding at no cost to ratepayers.

He accused Mr Brownless of locating Tauranga Park chapel next to Pyes Pa Cemetery in order to capitalise on council services.

Cr Guy said it was ridiculous for Mr Brownless to say the council should have consulted Legacy about the lounge when Legacy was a direct competitor.

Mr Brownless, who donated his funeral business to the Legacy Charitable Trust, said he had no need to apologise for trying to maximise Legacy's income because 100 per cent of profits went to the community.

"Cr Guy does seem to seek the media spotlight on many things, whereas I don't seek personal recognition or thanks."

Mr Brownless, who alternates between Tauranga and Sydney, said he never participated in any council discussion or decision making over the cemetery or crematorium.

He built Tauranga Park because of the council's lack of infrastructure at Pyes Pa Cemetery, namely its small chapel and non-existent catering.

Mr Brownless also challenged Cr Guy's assertion that Legacy's cremator had undermined the sustainability of council services.

He highlighted a statement that cremations at the council crematorium had dropped by only 10 per cent since Legacy set up.

"That should be easy to cope with given the profits the crematorium has in reserve."

Mr Brownless said Cr Guy's comments made him think Legacy was being punished for challenging a council monopoly.

All the rent received by his Woodhill Trust, which owned Legacy's land and buildings, went into maintenance and improvements to Tauranga Park and Woodhill Chapel. "I don't receive any payment or perk."

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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