ROTORUA families may have to pay more for funerals.
The Rotorua District Council wants local funeral directors to collect burial fees on its behalf.
The fees - which range from $1200 to $1800 - are charged for burials, cremations, disposing of ashes and purchasing plots.
Grieving families are billed for these fees by their funeral director - on behalf of the council - and pay the money to the council.
However, the council is owed $38,000 in fees and wants funeral directors to collect the money in an attempt to avoid bad debt.
Sceptical funeral directors say the bad debt problem will simply move from the council to funeral directors.
One funeral director estimates the proposal will result in families paying a $100 operating fee, and a $1200 to $1800 deposit before funerals proceed.
Burial fees are charged on top of the average cost of a funeral of $6500.
Rotorua funeral directors plan to fight the change which councillors at a Parks and Reserves Committee meeting have voted in favour of.
The move still needs to be signed off by the full council.
Keith Osborne, one of Rotorua's four funeral directors, told the Daily Post he could not understand the council's reasoning.
Funeral directors were already having to write off up to $80,000 a year in bad debts, he said.
Mr Osborne said if funeral directors were held responsible for collecting the council-imposed fees they would have to collect more than $160,000 a year.
Even if 10 or 20 per cent of that amount became "bad debt" that was a lot of money for a private business to cover, he said.
The council cannot legally refuse to provide burial and cremation services.
However, Mr Osborne questioned what would happen if a funeral director ran into financial difficulties and could not afford to pay the council-imposed fees.
"Is the council going to refuse a family a burial or cremation?"
Mr Osborne said a $100 "operating" fee was likely, and a $1200 to $1800 deposit - to cover burial costs - would be necessary. People would have to pay more to cover those who were not paying up.
Mr Osborne said he was disappointed by the lack of consultation.
Council staff only had one meeting with funeral directors earlier in the year.
He was also upset that he was informed less than an hour before the committee meeting that the issue was to be voted on.
Mr Osborne planned to meet with other funeral directors to lobby councillors to change their minds before next month's full council meeting.
Richard Bennison, of Grays Funeral Services, said the council's decision was "absolutely unfair".
He planned to fight it.
"We are already writing $40,000 to $60,000 off in bad debt each year," he said.
"If we are going to have another $20,000 to $30,000 in bad debt it doesn't make the business viable."
He expected funeral directors would have to borrow money to pay council fees if families did not pay.
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