‘Please beautify our final resting place’: Council slammed for ‘disgusting’ state of graveyard

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One of the most common complaints Stratford District Council receives concerns the upkeep of its cemetery.  Now he is looking for what can be done.  (File photo)

ALDEN WILLIAMS / Stuff

One of the most common complaints Stratford District Council receives concerns the upkeep of its cemetery. Now he is looking for what can be done. (File photo)

A Taranaki council has been called out for not being proud of its cemetery, with community members who have buried loved ones there calling it “a neglected and disgusting place”.

Stratford residents say Kopuatama Cemetery, which sits just off State Highway 43, also known as Forgotten World Highway, is unmaintained, often overgrown, and when mowed, grass clippings cover the headstones.

As a result, lack of maintenance is one of the most common complaints Stratford District Council receives.

In the council’s draft annual plan, which will be adopted next month, he outlined how it planned to spend $76,800 to improve the entrance to the cemetery.

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Of the 23 people who submitted the annual plan, two women called the council on spending and spoke at Tuesday’s hearing.

Shellie Anne Vesty was one of them and said it was “an outrageous waste of money”.

Kopuatama Cemetery is just outside Stratford Township on the Forgotten World Highway.

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Kopuatama Cemetery is just outside Stratford Township on the Forgotten World Highway.

“It just wouldn’t matter if you were spending $177,000 or $17 million because when you walk through the doors you’re still going to see a very neglected, disgusting place that needs attention,” Vesty said. . “It’s so upsetting.”

Vesty said the entire cemetery needed “tender care”.

“These are our loved ones some of whom have had a huge community contribution, like my husband – a firefighter for 28 years,” she said. “It’s like they’re thrown into this place, out of sight, out of mind.”

In nearby districts, New Plymouth’s Te Henui Cemetery has been entered into the annual Garden Festival, and Vesty said the cemeteries in South Taranaki were “beautifully maintained”.

“Please put some pride back in our graveyard. Beautify our final resting place.

Debbie McKinlay also spoke about her submission and said she had complained to the council on several occasions over the years.

“Really? $77,000 on an entryway upgrade when your contractors and council staff can’t even keep it clean and tidy.

She said there was “no pride” in the cemetery, which has “only one rose” in its rose garden.

“I didn’t even know there was a rose garden,” Councilor John Sandford said.

Sandford said “great arguments” were made and he was also aware of the grass clippings covering the headstones.

“It certainly costs nothing to mow the other way,” he said. “It’s disgusting.”

The council’s chief executive, Sven Hanne, said the cemetery was one of the topics the council had received the most complaints about.

Hanne said more information would be shared with elected members about how much was spent on maintenance and what it would cost to improve service.

The options will be presented to councilors before next month’s meeting, and they can make a decision on next steps, he said.

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