The chapel at Tauranga Crematorium has received a $50,000 upgrade as the council-owned facility faces competition for the first time since it was built almost 50 years ago.
"It was a bit overdue," the council's cemeteries boss Bill Keenan told the Bay of Plenty Times.
The chapel at Pyes Pa Cemetery re-opened this week following a week-long upgrade which included replacing the original carpet, new paint and lights, and refurbishing the pews.
It was part of the council's strategy to protect its position since the emergence of a competitor in the cremation business. Legacy Funerals began operating a crematorium at its Tauranga Park chapel about four months ago.
The council also plans to spend $225,000 to build a 100 sq m function room off the chapel where people could gather for a cup of tea.
Council property manager Anthony Averill said the number of cremations had dropped by about 10 per cent during the past three months compared to the same period a year earlier when Legacy did not have a crematorium. That translated to 25 cremations.
"It is pleasing for us that the impact has not been as significant as it might have been," Mr Averill said.
It was reported last year that the council feared it could lose nearly 40 per cent of its income from the crematorium, once Legacy started in competition. Cremations earned about $370,000 a year, or nearly 60 per cent of the revenue generated by the city's crematorium and cemeteries.
The council responded by a programme of improvements to the chapel and increasing the cost of casket burials so the loss of its monopoly on cremations did not threaten the bottom line, in which the cemetery business needed to be self funding and not a drain on rates.
Legacy Funerals director Glenn Dougal did not disclose the usage of its crematorium but said it was installed because many families wanted complete care.
He questioned the council's plan to build a lounge onto the crematorium's chapel, saying he did not see a great need for it.
Mr Dougal said funerals these days happened in a variety of places such as gardens, the beach, at home and churches. There were not a lot of requests to hold the service in the grounds of a cemetery, like the crematorium chapel.
Glenn Wilson, a nearby Pyes Pa resident who opposed Legacy's application to install a crematorium at Tauranga Park, said it had not been too bad.
"There is no smell and all you see is a heat haze, no smoke," Mr Wilson said. His only issue was the noise from the blowers used in the crematorium which could be heard inside their house for the three hours it took to cremate a body.
"It gets on your nerves a bit," he said.
Fortunately, it was an intermittent noise and two or three days could go by in which the crematorium was not operating.
"It's not getting the use I thought it would, which is good for us," Mr Wilson said.
He said Legacy had tried to quieten the noise. Mr Dougal said Legacy had chatted with neighbours about the noise, but there were no significant issues.