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Down among the dead men: Gold Coast eyes burials at sea to solve cemetery shortage


Plans for high-rise cemeteries offering a tomb with a view may have been put to rest, but the Gold Coast is still looking outside the box to deal with a shortage of burial space.

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Along with options including underground catacombs, above-ground mausoleums, or an underwater memorial site so divers can visit loved ones at sea, a local businessman is now offering more than 200 hectares of privately-owned land so people can be buried under a tree.

Gold Coast councillors this week agreed to investigate new options in response to the urgent need to find more cemetery space due to a 30 per cent rise in burials and anticipated population boom that would put even more pressure on available burial space.

The City currently manages eight cemeteries offering burials and cremations.

Tony Longhurst, owner of local shipyard and marina called The Boat Works at Coomera, today said his family’s massive cane fields at Norwell between Jacobs Well and Ormeau, which is roughly dead centre between Brisbane and Surfers Paradise, could be the solution the city was after.

Longhurst, whose family built the Dreamworld theme park, said he wants to use the land to build a forest cemetery.

It’s a flat block with a lake for irrigation and would make the ideal forest cemetery,” Longhurst said.

“All plots would be GPS marked, so families would know where their loved ones were buried and the cemetery could be designed in sections, such as natives, tropical, eucalypts, cactus, palms.

“Within 10 years, there would be a massive botanic garden parkland that could include a reception centre, café, chapel.”

The option is based on the “be a tree” natural burial movement in the United Kingdom where people are buried in biodegradable containers and without synthetic embalming agents so they can be returned to the earth to compost into soil nutrients with a forest of trees marking the spot.

“It’s the circle of life in action,” Longhurst said. “It makes sense to create a green space to enhance our natural surroundings and honour our departed family or friends.”

However, while being buried beneath a tree may be an option, Mayor Tom Tate is pushing for his favoured solution of being buried at sea.

Tate is pushing to revive plans for an underwater burial site similar to one built off of the Florida coastline in the United States, first mooted for the Gold Coast in 2018.

Neptune Memorial Reef is just over 5 kilometres off Key Biscayne in Miami and bills itself as the “ultimate in green burials” while becoming the largest man-made reef in the world that has the added bonus of being “an artistic representation of the lost city of Atlantis”.

Families can bury their loved ones at sea through a process of mixing cremated remains with cement that are then dropped into a mould, such as a clam shell, to create a new memorial that is added to the reef.

Tate also said Council would also look at other concepts to relieve pressure on the burial plot shortage such as mausoleum-style structures, while he dismissed high-rise vertical towers as “inappropriate”.


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