A HEALTH Department prediction that Warrnambool Cemetery would run out of spare burial plots by this year has been found to be well off the mark — by about eight years.
The forecast report looking at burial needs towards 2035 said at the end of 2010 there were only 380 remaining unused plots, which would be exhausted by 2013.
However, since the report was released a recent audit by Warrnambool Cemetery Trust representatives showed there were about 800 spare plots in the reserve, which dates back to the 1850s.
And trust secretary Clive Rayner told The Standard yesterday another 30 to 40 spaces had been found since the audit, with ample storage space for cremation ashes urns.
The Health Department yesterday explained the miscalculation by saying forecasts were based on data supplied by local cemetery trusts.
Meanwhile, the search for an alternative cemetery site is continuing, with Tower Hill Cemetery still on the options list, but it is understood there are traffic safety concerns.
The department’s report indicates that when Warrnambool cemetery is full burials will be allocated to Moyne Shire.
Mr Rayner said several sites around the district had been investigated for suitability and a final decision would rest with the government.
“We still have about eight years left before the Warrnambool cemetery is full for burials,” Mr Rayner said.
“I spoke to someone in the Health Department and gave our updated figures of about about 800 plots. Since then we’ve found space for another 30 to 40 burials.
“We do about 220 funerals a year using about 100 new graves with the balance in existing graves or cremations.
“In Warrnambool the ratio of burials to cremations is about 85 to 15.
“There is tonnes of space for cremation ashes in our rose garden or niche wall.”
A Health Department spokesman said the figures had been updated.
“Forecasts were based on what was provided by cemetery trusts,” the spokesman said.
“Some trusts provided information based on plots in developed areas rather than the total cemetry space.”
Warrnambool Cemetery is estimated to have 28,000 burials since it opened in 1856.
The Health Department report forecasts the number of burials in Warrnambool will rise to 355 a year by 2035, Colac Otway Shire will have 265, Glenelg Shire 250, Corangamite Shire 193, Southern Grampians 191 and Moyne Shire 161.
According to the report there is plenty of burial space in the rural shires with 2010 figures showing 77,833 spare plots in Corangamite, 72,093 in Moyne, 69,308 in Glenelg, 37,024 in Southern Grampians and 27,567 in Colac Otway.
It was the first time in Victoria’s history such a project had been undertaken to estimate land available for burial in public cemeteries.