Tokanui cemetery meeting

A public meeting tomorrow regarding Tokanui cemetery, which eight months ago was a forgotten field, will aim to create some momentum for plans to properly remember the 500 buried there.

The cemetery contains unmarked graves where bodies lay of patients of the former Tokanui Psychiatric Hospital, which closed in 1997.

A project to create a memorial plaque containing the names of those buried in the cemetery, as well as marking the graves with headstones, began in August last year.

Since then, the field has been surveyed and posts marking graves now stand in the cemetery. A water station has also been installed at the gate.

Multiple businesses around the region have offered to donate time and services to help, but designated project manager Maurie Zinsli said progress had slowed.

"It's come to a standstill and it's a bit scary, but I'm hoping this is a lull before the storm," he said.

The plan to honour the forgotten dead began when Zinsli tried to find the grave of his great aunt, Maria Zinsli, who spent her final 30 years at the hospital.

Anna Purgar, genealogist and historian, learned war veterans were in the cemetery when she checked names from burial records against military databases. She estimated upwards of 40 vets lie there.

The Masterton genealogist will attend tomorrow's meeting, Zinsli said.

"The idea is to bring everyone up to speed - find out where we are at and where we are going."

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Zinsli said two civil engineers from Auckland company Geotechnics are due to use ground-penetrating radar (GPR) to help locate rows of bodies in the cemetery.

Hamilton's James R Hill Funeral Directors pledged to sponsor a granite wall listing names of each person known to be buried in the cemetery.

The cemetery, in the middle of an AgResearch farm, is maintained by inmates from Waikeria Prison.

"The future maintenance of the cemetery is something I want to talk about at the meeting," Zinsli said.

The meeting is at Te Awamutu RSA at 381 Alexandra St at 10.30am tomorrow.

It will be followed by a trip to the cemetery, which everyone is welcome to attend. 

 - Waikato Times

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