Shooters Party leader Robert Borsak has claimed that Riverina residents will face higher funeral costs and council rates under a proposal that would see the NSW government "taxing the dead".
The government is considering the final report from a review into graveyard regulations that recommended many cemeteries be legally required to "establish a perpetual maintenance fund to meet future maintenance obligations".
Mr Borsak said the proposal amounted to a seven per cent tax on funerals for grieving families in Wagga and the Riverina just because some cemeteries in Sydney had rising maintenance costs.
"Over half the interments and something like 75 per cent of cemeteries are in the bush," he said.
"Traditionally all those cemeteries in the bush are maintained by councils and shires with ratepayers' money.
"What they are potentially looking is a seven per cent tax on funerals across the board and what would happen is half that money would come out of the bush and go into propping up failed government-owned cemetery trusts in Sydney."
A spokesperson for the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment said that "claims the government is planning on introducing a 'death tax', or interment tax, are false".
"The government is currently considering the findings and recommendations put forward in the report on the Statutory Review of the Cemeteries and Crematoria Act 2013 and preparing its response," the spokesperson said.
"The Government response will be released in the very near future".
In other news
Under the report's proposal, the threshold for cemetery to hold a mandatory perpetual maintenance fund would be 50 interments a year, 40,000 interments in its past, or heritage status.
Catholic Metropolitan Cemeteries Trust chief executive Peter O'Meara said that proposal would force councils that were already hit by bushfire and drought costs to run cemetery audits and face "retroactive tax" if they crossed the threshold.
"I just think the report is so stupid in that it asks people in the country to pay these exorbitant taxes or levies for cemeteries that are being maintained quite adequately out of normal revenue collected from council rates," he said.
Independent Wagga MP Joe McGirr said it was not clear on his initial assessment how the report would apply to Wagga but he "will review it further".
Wagga-based Nationals MLC Wes Fang said Mr Mr Borsak's comments were "typical of the Shooters" in "trying to politicise" a complex issue while using "less than a page to outline their alternate view".
"If they want their opinions to be considered in the debate, they should take the issue seriously, release a properly costed alternative policy and make it more than a page," he said.
"Until then, they are just on the outside, throwing rocks and trying to pretend they are relevant."
It's not the first time the Cemeteries and Crematoria Act has raised concerns in Wagga.
Councillor Dan Hayes taking issue with an amendment to the act in 2019 that he said risked the council having to exhume graves if the deceased's family did not renew a 99-year lease on the burial plot.
Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can continue to access our trusted content: