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1345.4 - SA Stats, Mar 2010  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 30/03/2010   
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FEATURE ARTICLE: BURIAL AND CREMATION TRENDS IN SA


INTRODUCTION

The South Australian government expects the metropolitan population to increase by over half a million people in the next 30 years (Government of South Australia, 2010). This will put pressure on the availability of land for residential, commercial and recreational use and may also affect the future requirements for cemetery development.

ABS projections used by the South Australian Government in their state Strategic Plan and the 30 Year Plan for Greater Adelaide indicate that the number of deaths each year in South Australia may nearly double from the current 12,500 to 23,000 by 2056. The two major providers of burial and cremation services in Adelaide; the Adelaide Cemeteries Authority (ACA; state government owned) and Centennial Park Cemetery Authority (CPCA; local government owned), together conduct about 56% of burials and cremations in South Australia and about 75% of these services in Adelaide. Both organisations expect that there will be a shortage of land for first-time burials within the time-frame of the state government plans. (ACA 2009; CPCA 2009)

This article uses data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the South Australian Births, Deaths And Marriages Registration Office and industry data collated by Centennial Park Cemetery Authority. The population projections for South Australia are reviewed in the context of historical trends for burials and cremations. The projected burial numbers in South Australia in 2056 are considered and the rate of land used for burials is calculated.


Historical trends

The number of deaths each year in South Australia has slowly increased from about 11,000 deaths per year in the early 1990's to about 12,600 deaths in 2008 which is an average annual growth of 0.8%. Total state cremations have increased from about 6,400 in 1995 to about 8,250 in 2009. The South Australian Births Deaths and Marriages Registration Office estimates that burials in South Australia have decreased from about 4,900 per year in 1995 to 4,300 in 2009.

DEATHS, CREMATIONS AND BURIALS, South Australia
Graph: DEATHS, CREMATIONS AND BURIALS, South Australia


Deaths recorded in the Adelaide statistical division has increased from about 8,000 in 1992 to about 9,100 in 2008 although as a percentage of state deaths this has remained reasonably constant at about 73%.

Total cremations performed by ACA and CPCA have fluctuated slightly around an average of about 5,150 per year. Total burials performed by ACA and CPCA has declined from about 1,800 burials per year in the early 1990's to about 1,450 burials in 2009.

CREMATIONS AND BURIALS BY ACA & CPCA, Adelaide
Graph: CREMATIONS AND BURIALS BY ACA & CPCA, Adelaide


The proportion of burials in South Australia has slowly decreased from 43% in 1995 to 34% in 2009. This contrasts with the combined ACA and CPCA totals where the proportion has only changed slightly with a decrease from about 25% to 22% over the same period. The Adelaide proportion is consistent with the experience in the United Kingdom and other capital cities in Australia where between 20 to 25 percent of metropolitan deaths result in burials while the remainder are cremated (CPCA, 2009).

BURIALS AS A PROPORTION OF DEATHS



Projections

The ABS publishes population projections to illustrate the change in population that would occur if certain assumptions about future levels of fertility, mortality, internal migration and overseas migration were to prevail over the projection period. For more information, see Population Projections, Australia, 2006 to 2101 (cat. no. 3222.0).

For South Australia, the number of deaths per year is projected to increase from about 12,500 in 2009 to between 17,500 and 23,000 by 2056.

PROJECTED DEATHS PER YEAR, South Australia
Graph: PROJECTED DEATHS PER YEAR, South Australia


There has been a steady increase in the number of deaths per year since 1956 and it has been projected that this rate will continue to slowly increase to about 14,700 deaths per year in 2025. For the following 20 years the number of deaths is projected to increase more rapidly as the 'baby boomers' age and by 2056 it is projected that the rate of increase will slow with the total number being approximately twice present values in both Series B and Series C estimates.

ACTUAL AND PROJECTED DEATHS, South Australia
Graph: ACTUAL AND PROJECTED DEATHS, South Australia


It can be expected that the increase in deaths will also result in an increase in the number of burials per year. As shown earlier in this article, the proportion of burials is 34% in South Australia and 22% in Adelaide. This proportion has been decreasing over the last 20 years and may continue to decrease.

As the proportion of burials may continue to slowly decline, three different burial proportions have been used to project possible high, medium and low numbers of future burials. If the proportion only declines slightly from the current SA proportion then the number of burials in 2056 is projected to be 6,850. If the proportion declines to about the metropolitan proportion of 22%, the number of burials in 2056 is projected to be about 5,150; and if the proportion declines substantially to 15%, the number of burials in 2056 is projected to be about 3.400.

PROJECTED BURIALS PER YEAR, For Different Proportions of Burials - South Australia
Graph: PROJECTED BURIALS PER YEAR, For Different Proportions of Burials—South Australia



Land Availability

There is no standard density of burial plots in cemeteries in South Australia. As a guide, CPCA currently has approximately 2,300 plots per hectare allowing for space between plots and infrastructure. It is possible to have multiple burials per plot and to reuse plots after the expiration of licences (usually between 50 and 99 years) but there is cultural resistance to this in some community sectors.

Based on the burial projections discussed in the previous section, and using the CPCA density of burials, it is estimated that at least 2 hectares of burial land will be required in South Australia each year. The availability of cemetery land in the north of Adelaide and regional South Australia, reuse of burial plots, changing community requirements and the emergence of new technologies may reduce the requirement for new cemetery land.


Summary

Over the last 20 years the number of deaths in South Australia has increased by about 14%, cremations have increased about 29% and burials have decreased about 15%. The proportion of burials has been decreasing and is currently about 34% of state deaths. This proportion is substantially lower at 22% for the two major cemetery and crematoria providers in Adelaide.

The number of deaths each year is projected to double by 2056 from current levels and may equate to about 5,000-7,000 burials and an annual requirement of at least 2 hectares of land.


Bibliography

ABS (Australian Bureau of Statistics) 2008, Population Projections, Australia, 2006 to 2101 (cat. no. 3222.0).

ABS 2009, Deaths, Australia, 2008 (cat. no. 3302.0).

ACA (Adelaide Cemeteries Authority) 2009, Submission to draft 30-year Plan for Greater Adelaide #433.

CPCA (Centennial Park Cemetery Authority) 2009, Submission to draft 30-year Plan for Greater Adelaide #167 .

CPCA, Collated SA Industry Statistics Deaths/Burials/Cremations, n.p.

Government of South Australia 2007, South Australia's Strategic Plan.

Government of South Australia 2010, The 30-year Plan for Greater Adelaide.

South Australian Births, Deaths And Marriages Registration Office, Annual Statistical Reports 1995 - 2009.

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