Mourners given more time to tend graves

JANINE RANKIN
Last updated 08:07 02/07/2013
Grave
Murray Wilson/Fairfax NZ

GARDEN VERGES: Families will be granted more time to tend gravesite gardens before the plots are returned to lawn.

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A grieving mother's plea to be allowed more time to tend a garden on her daughter's grave at Palmerston North's Kelvin Grove Cemetery has been heeded by city councillors.

Resident Julie Hogan wept in the council chamber as the vote result came in, recommending a bylaw change to allow her up to five years before the grave becomes part of the lawn.

Mrs Hogan had made a submission on the Cemeteries and Crematorium Bylaw asking for the one-year deadline to be extended.

"Requiring families to remove gardens and floral tributes at the first anniversary is thoughtless and cruel," she said.

She suggested five years, and was happy to have the arrangement reviewed annually.

"Five years is an arbitrary figure, but I know one year is not enough."

Council community facilities manager John Brenkley said the bylaw actually banned planting flowers, shrubs or trees on burial plots in the lawn cemetery, but council staff had been flexible about accommodating family wishes.

About 20 families had been granted exemptions for up to a year.

He said that was reasonable, because it took 12 months before the plot would have established grass and be able to be mown.

Allowing gardens to remain longer made it difficult to mow uninterrupted beams, creating the need to use a hand mower instead of a ride-on.

Mr Brenkley said it was not unusual for the families with a plot next to decorated or planted graves to complain, because they had chosen a lawn cemetery setting.

Cr Chris Teo-Sherrell led the change to the rules, saying it was a case where it was more important for the council to make a caring decision than save a minuscule amount of inconvenience and money on mowing.

"Determining the length of time that people can carry out certain actions to deal with their grief is quite unreasonable," he said.

He said the council had already accommodated the special needs of the Chinese community and Muslims for particular burial preferences, and should cater for other people's wishes as well.

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