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'Sad state of affairs': Councillors shocked by grief tax

AMAZED AND GOBSMACKED: Greg Rogerson and Jason O’Pray are appalled that the council would send a bill to a funeral home because mourners stayed too long at a cemetery.
AMAZED AND GOBSMACKED: Greg Rogerson and Jason O’Pray are appalled that the council would send a bill to a funeral home because mourners stayed too long at a cemetery. Hildy

AT LEAST two Sunshine Coast councillors are in disbelief that their organisation would charge a grieving family for staying too long at a cemetery after a burial.

Councillors Greg Rogerson and Jason O'Pray voiced their frustration when they heard the news yesterday.

But the response from the council itself following an angry backlash from Daily readers has been a deathly silence.

Hundreds of readers took to the Daily's Facebook page to voice their outrage at the council's decision to send a funeral home a $230 bill because some mourners spent too long at a gravesite after a burial.

>>IF YOU MISSED IT: CRY ON YOUR OWN TIME, MOURNERS CHARGED FOR GRIEVING TOO LONG

When Brisbane City Council was outed for sending an overtime bill to a grieving family who overstayed their welcome at Pinnaroo cemetery after heavy traffic caused a delay it was quick to react to the negative publicity.

The council said the fee charged when a graveside farewell ran past 4pm was "inadvertently issued" and it was withdrawn.

The news made world headlines and in Victoria, the Department of Health and Human Services wrote to cemetery trusts to tell them overtime penalties should not apply.

READERS DISCUSS: FEE FOR MOURNING TOO LONG? DISGRACEFUL 

WE SAY: AND IN THE MOURNING WE WILL REMEMBER THEM

But attempts to get a response, or even better a retraction, from the Sunshine Coast Council yesterday were unsuccessful.

The council's only comment was that it "is not making any further public comments on this issue".

Cr Rogerson was amazed to hear the news. "You need to cut some slack," he said.

"Without knowing the full story, whatever happened to people who did a job that you'd stick around to help others?

"Council staff are doing it for the community, we are community service providers. That is the tack I would like to see - take half an hour one day, you get it back the next day.

"If we are getting to the stage that we start charging when people overstay at a funeral it's a pretty sad state of affairs."

Cr O'Pray, who along with Cr Rogerson and other councillors had been locked in meetings yesterday, did not believe the news at first.

"I am a little bit gobsmacked, it doesn't sound right or appropriate to me," he said.

Cr Jenny McKay has called the funeral industry to meet with her and council officers to see how the issue can be addressed and "how we can alleviate these additional fees".

Mayor Mark Jamieson and councillors Peter Cox, Chris Thompson, Ted Hungerford, Christian Dickson, Tim Dwyer and Rick Baberowski could not be reached when the Daily tried to seek their comment between 4.30pm and 5pm.

Cr Steve Robinson said he would need to gain more information about the issue before commenting.

Topics:  cemeteries editors picks funeral sunshine coast council



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