A $50 million Australiana-themed cemetery will become a unique destination for weddings and fitness groups, as it meets new demand from Melbourne’s eastern suburbs, its proponents say.
Victorian Health Minister David Davis will on Wednesday announce an 8500-grave expansion to Bunurong Memorial Park, south of Dandenong.
The Southern Metropolitan Cemeteries Trust wants funerals to be just one part of their “new concept” public cemetery, which will include waterways, a cafe and children’s playground.
Chief executive Jonathan Tribe said he hoped the mega-cemetery would be used by families for casual recreation, such as dog walking. He said the new facilities, including an outdoor chapel, would be open to any type of function, such as weddings and business breakfasts.
“We’re trying to demystify cemeteries … so they’re not just places that you come when people die,” Mr Tribe said.
At nearby Springvale Botanical Cemetery, sellable grave sites are set to run out by 2034, while Bunurong has just an 18-month supply remaining. But the 19-year-old cemetery currently uses just 10 per cent of the land available on the 100 hectare site. The new development will take up 25 per cent of the site, which will add 20,000 cremation memorials and is expected to take about 20 years to fill.
A spokesman for Health Minister Davis said his department had worked with Victorian cemeteries to forecast demand and identified the need for more cemetery land in growth areas, such as the south-east corridor.
“This is why the redevelopment of the Bunurong Memorial Park is an important part of the Coalition government’s plan to ensure that our growing city has enough burial space over the next few decades,” the spokesman said.
Last year the Victorian government rejected introducing a limited tenure on graves to cope with dwindling burial space.
Mr Tribe said the Bunurong cemetery expansion would meet demand created by growth areas in eastern Melbourne and the Mornington Peninsula, where small cemeteries are starting to fill.
He said the cemetery would also respond to requests for members of the Greek, Croatian and Islamic communities to be buried together.
“The Islamic graves all have to point towards Mecca, so there’s a location issue we have to take into account,” Mr Tribe said.
This article originally appeared on page 6 of The Age newspaper on 22 October 2014. Written with Aisha Dow.