Cremation: options for reform
9.20Our preliminary view is that the oversight component of the regulatory framework could usefully be strengthened in the following areas:
- the approvals process for crematorium operators; and
- inspections and auditing of crematoria.
A licensing regime for crematorium operators
9.21 We have given preliminary consideration to whether crematoria operators should be subject to a licensing regime, as an alternative to the approval process currently required by the Regulations (the approval to commence operation). The advantages of a licensing regime could include reducing the risk of criminal conduct going undetected, greater confidence as to the respectful handling of human remains, and contributing to a robust regulatory framework that provides sufficient public assurance.
9.22A licencing regime would enable ongoing scrutiny of crematoria operators, as licences can be issued for a specified period of time and require renewal. Conditions could be imposed, such as a requirement to complete certain training or demonstrate particular competencies or cultural awareness. A licence could be suspended or revoked if the licensee consistently fails to meet minimum standards. Licences could be required to be displayed on-site or made searchable online, providing reassurance for clients of the crematorium.
9.23In the Canadian provinces of Ontario, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia, crematoria are required to be licensed. An independent regulatory board established by statute is responsible for oversight of the licensing regime in each province, including granting the licence, monitoring ongoing compliance, and receiving complaints.
9.24In the state of New York, 44 out of 47 active crematoria are operated by not-for-profit corporations. Any employee of a crematorium “whose function is to conduct the daily operation of the cremation process” must be certified by an organisation approved by the Cemeteries Division of the New York Department of State. Certification must be renewed every five years and proof of the certification must be posted in the crematorium and be available for inspection.
9.25New Zealand has a variety of licensing models, including the licensing of sectors such as private security and gambling through an enforcement unit within the Department of Internal Affairs, and the licensing of sectors such as food, liquor, health and hygiene by local authority health inspectors.
9.26We note that a new licencing regime for crematoria operators would align with the option in Part 3 of this paper for funeral services providers to be licensed. It may be desirable to mirror that regulatory approach in the crematorium sector, especially as the two sectors have an increasing amount of crossover as increasing numbers of funeral directors open their own crematoria on-site. The two licensing regimes could share administrative resources; for instance local authority health inspectors could be tasked with considering applications, granting licences, and monitoring conditions and compliance under both regimes. Alternatively, an assessment of the risk profile within the cremation sector may suggest that it would be desirable for central government oversight of a licensing regime.
9.27If licensing is not favoured as an option, and the approvals process is retained, an alternative option would be to strengthen the assessment of suitability to operate a crematorium, such as requiring a police check on every applicant and key personnel such as the registrar, attendant and medical referee, and ensuring that the applicant demonstrates adequate understanding of the regulatory framework and policy drivers, in particular the death certification requirements and record-keeping requirements.
9.28 Our preliminary assessment, however, is that the weakness of the current approvals process warrants consideration being given to a licensing regime for crematorium operators, and that is currently our preferred option.
Inspections and auditTop
9.29An option we put forward for consideration is a more robust inspection and audit process within the regulatory framework. Regular inspections and monitoring could decrease the risk of standards failures in relation to the respectful treatment and handling of human remains. Inspections should also monitor the recording and storage of information, such as permissions to cremate, which play a crucial role in preventing and detecting criminal conduct or neglect.
9.30In Victoria, Australia, the Cemeteries and Crematoria Act 2003 sets down a fairly detailed process for inspections of trustee-managed cemeteries, who are the sole authorised providers of crematoria. The Act sets out the powers of authorised officers appointed under the Act to enter and inspect “any place being used as a crematorium” during normal business hours. Their powers are wide-ranging, including a power to require persons to answer questions, a power to test any equipment or facilities, and a power to seize any document or equipment if it is believed to relate to a contravention of the Act or the regulations.
9.31In the United Kingdom, the Cremation (England and Wales) Regulations 2008 include a basic requirement that a cremation authority enable inspections at any reasonable time by a person appointed by the Secretary of State. The Federation of Burial and Cremation Authorities also has an inspection role. The Federation visits 16 crematoria per year, occasionally accompanied by government representatives, makes an audit of the statutory and operational requirements, and writes a report which it sends to the relevant crematorium.
Education and trainingTop
9.32 Overseas, there are specific legislative provisions and requirements for education and training. In Alberta, Canada, for instance, all crematoria must have a manager who is responsible for operations, the conduct of employees, and for ensuring that cremations are performed by “adequately trained and supervised persons”. All crematory managers may be required to complete continuing education programmes and courses.
9.33There are moves to create a recognised qualification for crematoria in New Zealand, but as yet there is no formal provision for training or education of crematoria operators.
9.34We understand from the Cemeteries and Crematoria Collective that unit standards for cemeteries (incorporating burial and cremation) are in currently being developed by the primary training organisation responsible for the horticulture and agriculture sector. These unit standards would provide an approved qualification for crematorium operators. The push to create recognised qualifications for operators of crematoria in New Zealand would create a degree of symmetry with the funeral sector and encourage best practice. We wonder whether completing those training requirements should be a compulsory precondition to operating or managing a crematorium. That could be considered in conjunction with the licensing proposal discussed above.