Plot pre-purchases resurrected

By Lawrence Gullery

Hastings and Havelock North cemeteries could be reopened for people to pre-purchase burial plots but it will come with some tight controls and regulations.

Hastings District Council stopped pre-purchasing two years ago when it became clear people were buying up after news the district's two main cemeteries were near capacity.

Some people were buying multiple plots for family members, while others were trying to on sell the burial rights they had bought from the council.

The council's district development committee met yesterday to hear a report on how it could manage the shortage of sites available across its four cemeteries and how it could reintroduce pre-purchasing, a vital source of income. Cemetery manager Garry Bowles said there had been a rush on applications for pre-purchased plots dating back to 1993, when there were about 100 bought, as people were told the cemeteries would be full.

"In the past 18 months since we stopped pre-purchasing ... we continue to get calls asking about pre-purchasing about once or twice a week.

"Not allowing the purchases has its budget implications and it means we can't get an income.

"We have the capacity to allow pre-purchases as long as we reduce the risk."

Hastings cemetery on Orchard Rd had 269 graves but 160 were reserved or pre-purchased, leaving just 109 available.

The cemetery would be full in two years but if the entire 269 plots were available, its life would be extended to over five years.

Councillors wanted to know whether people could sell their pre-purchased plots if they had moved out of the region.

Mr Bowles said people could sell back to the council for the price the rights were bought for.

The council also heard there was $1 million set aside to find land for a new cemetery and that work would continue alongside plans to make more room available in existing cemeteries and new policies to better manage pre-purchasing.

Hastings Mayor Lawrence Yule asked staff if they could suggest a time when pre-purchasing plots at Hastings and Havelock North cemeteries would be reopened.

"We don't want people ringing up tomorrow asking about it but suggesting a time frame will give a pathway for people to follow."

Acting community facilities and programmes manager Craig Thew said it was likely measures to manage pre-purchasing plots would be presented to the council aroud the time of the 2013-14 annual plan, in May or June next year.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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