Logan crematorium to go ahead despite funeral industry’s ethical concerns over operator
Despite the funeral industry’s ethical concerns and strong opposition from local residents, the Queensland Government says it has no plans to call in a controversial crematorium slated for Logan, south of Brisbane.
- The National Funeral Directors Association says ethical concerns should have been considered by council
- Elysian Fields Funerals director Anthony James argues his company has been transparent
- Development Minister Cameron Dick will not reverse the council approval
Logan City Council approved the proposed development earlier this month, but the project has drawn criticism from the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA).
Elysian Fields Funerals is planning to open the crematorium on High Road at Bethania, close to a major retirement village.
The company’s funeral director, Anthony James, pleaded guilty in 2011 to falsifying documents after driving dozens of bodies hundreds of kilometres away to Rockhampton in central Queensland to have them cremated on the cheap.
Nigel Davies from the NFDA said the conviction should have been taken into consideration.
He said a group of related associations agree.
“The National Funeral Directors Association, Funeral Directors of New South Wales and Australian Cemeteries and Crematoria Associations would all be opposed to anyone who has previously been convicted of falsifying documents pertaining to human remains subsequently being offered authorisation to operate,” he said.
“We don’t believe that the ethical guidelines of proper behaviour in the funeral industry are being met.
“There is no regulation of the funeral and cemeteries industry in general.
“It has been pretty much left to the professional associations to try and claim a minimum ethical standard.”
Funeral director defends business
In a statement to ABC News, Mr James said his company has been open and transparent with authorities.
“In the past, there have been errors made with documentation which have been accounted for and have led to changes to our current business practice,” he said.
“We have an ongoing agreement with the Office of Fair Trading (OFT), which requires full disclosure of all business activity and the opportunity for the OFT to conduct spot checks and audits of our operations at any time.
Anthony James pleaded guilty to falsifying cremation documents in 2011. (www.elysianfieldsfunerals.com.au)
“We have complied with — and passed — all spot checks and audits.”
Mr James said the development would comply with all building and environmental codes outlined by the council.
“The approved site for Bethania Funeral Home and Crematorium is located within an area zoned for industrial and commercial use,” he said.
“It is common practice in Australia for funeral homes and crematoriums to be located in populated areas.
“Any allegations that fume and noise emissions from Australian crematoriums have the potential to impact the health and safety of the local community are unfounded, and there is absolutely no supporting evidence for these concerns.”
No licence needed to run a crematorium
While there is a Cremations Act relating to how a cremation must be conducted, operators do not require a licence to conduct business.
The facilities are approved and monitored by council, but the industry is largely only governed by a voluntary code of conduct.
A Logan City Council spokesman described the proposal as “compliant with all relevant benchmarks”.
Proposed signage for the front of the Elysian Fields Funerals building in Bethania. (Logan City Council)
“The applicant is responsible for ensuring they are complying with the conditions of a development approval at all times,” he said.
“Like all businesses in Australia, the funeral service industry must comply with Australian Consumer Law.”
Minister will not exercise call-in power
The council has since referred its approval decision to the State Assessment Referral Agency.
But State Development Minister Cameron Dick said he would not exercise his power to call in the project.
“Ministerial call-ins are special reserve powers that provide the ability for the Minister to protect the interests of the State,” he said.
“They’re not about reversing council decisions.
“Where a development has been approved that is consistent with the planning scheme and does not contradict any state interests, there is generally no legal basis for the Minister to call it in.”
Residents want to appeal
Dian Howes, who heads up a local residents action group, said she was seeking legal options to challenge the council’s decision.
“We’ve got a community of approximately 1,000 retirees who live all within a one kilometre radius of that site – many of those people have had enormous distress as a consequence of this decision,” she said.
“We’re getting some advice as a community as to what our options are in terms of not only in the way it was handled but the way council seemed to arrive at a very definitive decision.
“This isn’t over by any stretch of the stick as far as the community’s concerned.”
Earlier this month, Federal Member for Forde Bert van Manen praised the efforts of local residents for “tireless efforts” in fighting the development.
“My thoughts are with the local community which is home to young families, retirees, home owners and business owners who will be directly impacted by this decision,” he told Federal Parliament.