Hastings' four cemeteries will be full in just under six years' time unless expansion plans and tougher rules on those trying to pre-purchase plots are approved by the Hastings District Council tomorrow.
Figures from Statistics New Zealand showed there would be a 30 per cent increase in deaths in the Hastings district over the next 20 years.
Historic data showed there were 116 grave site burials a year across the council's cemeteries. There were currently 647 plots available and at the current rate of annual burials, the last one would be filled in five years and six months' time.
The expected increase in deaths, coupled with demand from people to pre-purchase burial plots, had put pressure on room at Hastings' cemeteries which were located in the city centre off Orchard Rd, Mangaroa, Havelock North and Puketapu.
At Orchard Rd, there were 269 plots but 160 had been pre-purchased or reserved, leaving 109 or 40.5 per cent of empty plots actually available. At the present rate of use, the cemetery would be full in two years' time.
It was a similar story in Havelock North where there were 504 plots but 350 reserved, leaving 154 or 30.6 per cent of plots available. The cemetery would be full in just over five years but if all 504 plots were available, its life would be extended to about 19 years.
The council blamed the surge in interest from people pre-purchasing plots on media reporting of its cemeteries and the increase in the number of people taking out "pre-need funeral plans" had also contributed to the demand.
It stopped pre-purchases at the Havelock North and Hastings cemeteries in early 2011 as it was leading to the cemetery in Havelock North, particularly, running out of room completely. People could still pre-purchase at the other cemeteries. A hold on pre-purchases had reduced income but also delayed the need for more cemeteries.
Options include limiting the sale of exclusive rights of a pre-purchased plot to one person, which meant no individual could own more than one plot.
People would be stopped from trying to on-sell pre-purchased plots for a profit. The council could place a higher cost on pre-purchases.
The report would also ask the council to start the second phase of development at the Havelock North cemetery, an $80,000 project which included creating a further 178 graves.
There could be a further 250 plots out of a potential 700 developed at the Hastings cemetery, which is a $50,000 project. The remaining 500 could not be dug using machinery and so would require "hand digging", adding to the costs. The council would also consider data-tagging hardware and readers so all new graves could be identified and the data uploaded to the council's database, a project worth between $20,000 and $40,000.
The council had budgeted $1m in the 2016-2017 year to buy land for future cemetery development.