Parker 'extremely sorry' for burial offer mistake
LATEST: The Christchurch City Council has apologised for a mixup over who would pay the burial costs of earthquake victims in a memorial cemetery.
Mayor Bob Parker said he was "extremely sorry" for the council's mistake and the cost of burial for quake victims would be met as promised.
"On a personal note all I can say is that I am very sorry for the misunderstanding, for which we will take full responsibility. We made a commitment to these families and we must honour that promise," he said.
The Press reported today that the council reneged on its offer to meet burial costs for quake victims in a memorial site at Avonhead Park Cemetery after sending a letter out to families saying it would cover all costs.
Instead, grieving families discovered they would have to pay the $350 plot fee when they contacted the cemetery.
"The council sent a letter to the families of victims before Christmas saying it would cover these costs and has now apologised saying that it had made a mistake and would only cover the interment costs and that the victims' families would have to pay the $349.60 cost for the plot. I was only made aware of this mistake today and I, too, am upset.
"This should never have happened," Parker said.
"I am extremely sorry for the distress this has caused the families and want to reassure them the council will meet the costs of the plots."
Around 20 quake victims' families have indicated they wish to purchase plots at the memorial site but no payments have been made, Parker said.
In the future, if families wish to inter other family members alongside their loved one who perished in the earthquake the families would need to meet the $150 interment fee but no other cost for the plot would be required.
There had been outrage today after the Christchurch City Council appeared to renege on the offer to pay for the burial costs of earthquake victims in the memorial cemetery.
Steve Brown was widowed on February 22 and has kept the ashes of wife Melanie Brown with him since.
When he read about the council's interment site in November, he said he felt it was time to lay her to rest.
When he rang the cemetery to organise her burial plot, he was shocked to hear it was going to cost $350.
"The council clearly said the costs would be covered and when I rang they just said that was wrong," Brown said.
"I was more p..... off than anything, especially because it all happened around Christmas.
"They backtracked on their word and it really took me by surprise."
Brown said he thought the millions of dollars of donations raised in quake funds since February last year would have been sufficient to cover the burial costs of the quake victims.
He still wanted to inter his wife's ashes at Avonhead Park Cemetery.
"I love the idea of the memorial site. It is a place that will always be there for anyone to visit and it is going to be well looked after," he said.
"She will be always remembered there, even when we are all gone."
Widow Val Craig also planned to lay husband John Craig, 67, to rest at the cemetery.
She said she was "extremely surprised" when she was told of the burial cost.
"The council said it would cover the costs but then never bothered to rectify with anyone that the statement was incorrect," she said.
"It was very disappointing to find out over the phone that it would cost $350."
Craig said she would pay the cost to ensure her husband was part of the memorial.
"He was part of this disaster so he might as well lie with all the other poor people that died that day," she said.
Craig and Brown have become close friends after they both lost their partners when the Pyne Gould Corporation building collapsed on February 22.
They have bought plots side by side for their loved ones, who died side by side in the Cambridge Tce building.
Twenty-two quake families have approached the council about using the interment site at Avonhead.
The Christchurch Earthquake Mayoral Relief Fund has given $170,000 to help pay for the construction of the interment site at the cemetery.
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