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Future Of Waverley Cemetery Remains Clouded

By Marcus Braid on August 12, 2014 in News

Photo: Nick Andrews

Photo: Nick Andrews

Waverley Mayor Sally Betts has sought to assure residents they will be included in the community consultation process for the refurbishment of Waverley Cemetery.

Speculation over the future of the iconic but decaying cemetery has been rife ever since the original Plan of Management was announced in 2008, with no firm decisions yet made about any substantial future development.

Cr Betts said Council is currently working out the community consultation process and decisions can’t be made until feedback is received.

“The basic questions are do we need a place for inside funerals, do we need to have a fence to keep the cemetery secure at night, do we need to have some measures in the fencing, and what kind of stablisation do we need for the gully?” she said.

“Those are the basic four questions, and I’ve met with a whole lot of the community twice. They are well aware of everything that I’m doing.”

However, Councillor Ingrid Strewe questioned the sincerity of the proposed community consultation, and hoped Council veered away from the construction of a Centennial Park-style fence surrounding the cemetery.

“It really annoys me when people do community consultation that has a foregone conclusion,” Ms Strewe said.

“I said to the mayor, ‘I really think we should repair the picket fence’. The picket fence is obviously a heritage fence; it’s been there for 100 years. She turned on me and said, ‘We can have the cheap and nasty option if you want’. I like the way our Cemetery has a rolling hills feel and it doesn’t need that giant fence.

“My opinion may not be the way it goes but that’s what I believe. I believe we should keep the coastal walk and that area free of function centres and cafes. I think that it’s nice that it’s a really wild and lonely place.”

Council has allocated $7.5 million in its budget for refurbishment of the cemetery, which has prompted speculation a function centre and café may be built on top of the cemetery’s gully. $3 million is allocated to the 2014-15 budget for repair of the cemetery’s internal walls, to fix the gate and remove the orange tape inside its walls.

“We have a report that says the gully should be monitored, that it could slip, and there was $4.5 million put aside in 2014-15 to fix that up,” Cr Betts said. “I shifted that out when we approved the budget. I shifted that out of 2014-15 and put $2 million in 2015-16 and $2.5 million in 2016-17, because we have not made that decision.”

Cr Betts also sought to clarify that a function centre had not been canvassed, but rather an internal funeral area.

“It would not be a function centre; it would be a place to have internal funerals,” she said. “If we were going to have one, where would you put it? Obviously you don’t want to get in anybody’s face, so we could put it below eye level in the gully, so at the same time as doing the remediation of the gully, we could build something just below eye sight there.

“And then would we want to have a café where people could have some tea and coffee after their funeral? If we are going to have that, do you want people to be able to buy coffee when they’re doing the Bondi to Coogee walk? Maybe you do.”

But Cr Strewe cautioned that the costs associated with building an internal funeral house would be exorbitant.

“Councillors have been told unless we do something like this, there’s going to be a massive deficit,” she said. “But in my opinion, if you combine all the amounts of money that you have to spend to get a function centre working properly, as I’ve said before it’s about $25-30 million.

“It’s hard to see how the number of funerals we could get would pay back the $25 million. It’s just an impossibility in my mind.”

Council has recently performed temporary repair work to sections of the cemetery’s fencing along its Trafalgar Street boundary.

“Everybody was complaining about the horrible orange tape so we thought we should just take it away and replace it,” Cr Betts said. “It’s just a temporary fix because we have not made a decision about the boundary fence.”