Decorations on graves costly for council

Last updated 12:00 07/03/2014
COSTLY MOVE: The Council will create two extra berms in the main lawn area at Kelvin Grove Cemetary.

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A policy born out of kindness toward grieving families is likely to cost an extra $80,000 at Palmerston North's Kelvin Grove Cemetery in the coming year.

The money is included in the city council's draft Annual Plan, to create two extra berms in the main lawn area so that new graves can be dug without disturbing nearby plantings and decorations.

Cr Lew Findlay, who supported grieving mother Julie Hogan's plea to be allowed more than a year to tend a garden on her daughter's grave, was shocked by the price tag.

"I have difficulty accepting that, and I will be asking questions. I did not realise it would cost so much."

But Cr Findlay said the cost would not have altered his vote on the change to the Cemeteries and Crematorium Bylaw, which was rewritten to allow people to maintain grave decorations for up to five years.

"Grief is a very painful thing, and people need time."

City council assets officer Brian Way said council staff had discouraged councillors from extending what was already a "very liberal" policy allowing grave decorations for a year.

"It is a lawn cemetery, and we don't have a specific site set aside for decorated graves which some cemeteries do."

He said there were extra maintenance costs because ride-on mowers did not fit along berms where there were decorated graves, and more areas had to be mown by hand.

The other difficulty was that grave diggers could not be used opposite the foot of a decorated grave without disturbing the plantings or decorations.

"We do care about making sure we don't upset them."

That meant some grave sites in each row could not be dug until the other graves were grassed over.

An extra pair of berms would have to be created in the coming year to ensure there was access to enough new plots.

The money would be used to create a double-sided beam, with 104 individual graves.

Up to 200 burials take place each year.

Mr Way said the cost included excavation and laying a solid foundation for the central concrete beam that would have to support the weight of more than 100 heavy granite headstones.

Asphalt footpaths also had to be laid between the burial berms to ensure people could walk there all year around.

Mr Way said the extra spending was a one-off, and the routine of creating just two new berms a year would be sufficient in future.

In the past, about 20 families a year have been been allowed to create gardens and keep decorations on graves for one year only.

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