Nation's 'critical' shortage laid bare as cemetery plots hit $100k: 'Set to run out'

We've known for some time that Sydney is about to run out of burial sites. But now, there's finally some hope.

Australia is in the midst of a serious housing affordability crisis, but now it seems the issue of inadequate dwelling space is following us to the grave, with some sought-after cemetery plots being advertised for a whopping $100,000 online.

Across the country, the lack of supply appears to be worst in NSW, where a 2023 audit conducted by the state's Planning Department found there was a "critical shortage of grave sites in Sydney", with faith-run cemeteries in particular in desperate need. According to the audit, "multiple religious groups are set to run out of burial space" within just a few years, reflecting the dire state of the shortage in the state.

Sydney gravesites advertised for up to $100,000 online

Online, cemetery plots are being advertised on Facebook Marketplace for tens of thousands of dollars, with some graves in sought-after cemeteries such as Waverley — which has been dubbed "the most beautiful in the world" due to its coastal sea views — being marketed at upwards of $50,000. Yahoo News Australia is aware of at least two listed in just the last week with asking prices between $70,000 to $100,000 at the site.

An ad from Facebook marketplace advertising burial plots for sale. One for $50,000 and one for $100,000.
Plots at sought-after cemeteries such as Waverley in Sydney's east are being advertised for upwards of $50,000. Source: Facebook

A simple Google search reveals the true scale of the problem, with plots on platforms like Gumtree similarly being advertised for tens of thousands. A burial plot at Pinegrove Memorial Park in Minchinbury in the city's west was listed for sale for $60,000 on Monday. At Forest Lawn in Leppington, a spot is being sold for $20,000.

Authorities urged to address 'desperate' crisis

The lack of supply throughout Sydney has prompted people to call for authorities to immediately address the growing issue, with a new cemetery not being built in the city in over a century, despite the population more than doubling in that time.

Many have made the argument that the majority of people today are cremated after death — two out of three in NSW, according to the government. But certain religious groups, including some Catholics and Jews, don't allow the process.

An extract from trading site Gumtree showing burial plots for sale at Pinegrove, Macquarie Cemetery and Forest Lawn Cemetery.
On Gumtree, graves are being sold for tens of thousands. Source: Facebook

They're among those leading the push for new cemeteries, which leaders have said they are in "desperate need of". Speaking to Yahoo News Australia, a spokesperson for the NSW Department of Planning, Housing and Infrastructure said there are finally plans to erect a new public cemetery, which could provide some relief.

Planning Department flags new Sydney cemetery

"NSW agencies are taking a whole-of-government approach and working together to address burial space availability in Sydney," the spokesperson told Yahoo News. "In May last year, the government published an overview of the burial space supply pressures facing Sydney’s Crown cemetery sector, and announced the amalgamation of three Crown cemetery operators as part of efforts to increase the supply of graves.

"A new Crown cemetery, Macarthur Memorial Park, is being developed at Varroville in Sydney’s southwest which will inject up to 136,000 burial plots, and is the first new Crown cemetery in decades," the spokesperson said, conceding however that "more supply within Sydney" will be needed to "meet ongoing community needs and expectations of affordable and accessible burial options".

Since 2022, planning changes will see all new and expanded cemeteries of over 5,000 or more plots assessed as state significant developments, the spokesperson explained, "in the same way as other important social infrastructure".

"The Government is engaging with Crown cemetery operators to investigate opportunities to unlock further supply in existing Crown cemeteries, including the potential to expand existing sites where appropriate.

An extract of more expensive Sydney graves advertised on Gumtree.
People are willing to fork out tens of thousands to secure their loved one a space in some cemeteries. Source: Facebook
Waverley Cemetery in Sydney's east looking over the Pacific Ocean..
Waverley Cemetery has been dubbed 'the world's most beautiful' for its scenic views. Source: Getty

Faith-run cemeteries at most risk

Minister for Lands and Property Steve Kamper said the previous government is to blame for the shortage. "The independent report that was released last month highlighted the disaster that the previous government created through indecision and infighting," he said last year. "We will not make the same mistakes."

The 2023 audit found that Crown-operated cemeteries in Macquarie Park and Frenchs Forest will run out of burial space for Armenian Orthodox residents in the next two and a half to three years, while at Rookwood Cemetery — Australia's biggest — there will be no space for Islamic and Antiochian Orthodox burials in three years. Macedonian Orthodox burial plots will be exhausted in just two, the audit stated.

Waverley Cemetery in Sydney's east.
Religious cemeteries are the most at risk of filling up, a 2023 audit revealed. Source: Getty

According to Cemeteries and Crematoria NSW, there is no set costs for burial, placement of ashes or cremation in NSW and prices "will vary across the state" and "be determined by a number of factors". NSW-based funeral director Personal Farewells averaged that funeral plots in the state typically sell for between $9,500 – $20,000.

Do you have a story tip? Email:

You can also follow us on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter and YouTube.