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Locals Concerned By Waverley Cemetery Plans

By Reginald Sullivan on July 2, 2013 in News

Photo: Dunstan Foss

Photo: Dunstan Foss

Community tensions have begun to stir after residents learned of new plans for the future of Waverley Cemetery.

The cemetery, a fully commercial business that has been trading successfully without funding assistance from Council or ratepayers for over 135 years, runs funeral and interment ceremonies almost every day and has done so since 1877. Its business future is currently uncertain due to changes in demand for interment services and the structure of the funeral/cemeteries industry in Australia.

“A new business plan is now needed to make sure the cemetery can continue to support itself, meet obligations entered into over many years to inter people, and preserve its fabulous landscape and monuments,“ Waverley Council’s Director Corporate & Technical Services Bronwyn Kelly told The Beast.

Council has been toying with the idea of building a pavilion on the grounds of the cemetery that could potentially help fund its everyday running and maintenance.

“Council considers the cemetery a vital heritage asset and has resolved to investigate the business feasibility of a pavilion for funerals. Council has also resolved to consider options for new fencing and this is being looked at as a possible business opportunity as well. Maintaining the character and heritage of the site and minimising impacts on local residents is an important focus in consideration of both the fencing and possible pavilion,” Mrs Kelly said.

“No ratepayer funding has been put aside for a pavilion. A pavilion would need to be funded by loans and will only be considered if returns from its operations were sufficient to cover all loan costs,“ she added.

At this stage, feasibility assessments are still ongoing. If Council can’t find a feasible option, the burden will undoubtedly fall upon ratepayers.

“Should any feasible business options be identified in this process, they will be put to the community for consultation. If no feasible options are found it is likely that rates will need to be used to cover the cost of backlog infrastructure renewal, ongoing site maintenance and ongoing operations costs,” Mrs Kelly said.

“Initial business feasibility assessments of a pavilion are nearing completion and results will be discussed with the community panel and Council in the next few months. Community consultation on the outcomes of this investigation and any draft concepts which may arise will be extensive. Council will consider a report in July on fencing options, prior to community consultation on the options, “ she added.

A resident action group called Residents for Waverley Cemetery has produced a small newsletter outlining its concerns and opposition to Waverley Council’s plans for the cemetery.

Among the group’s concerns are what the pavilion will house (“a café? A chapel? A crematorium?”), how Council anticipates the pavilion will be able to make enough money to repay the loan taken out to build it, and how residents can decide if this development is a sound one without knowing the purpose, feasibility and financial implications of the proposed Pavilion?

It is not the first time that issues surrounding the future of the cemetery have stirred up public debate. Back in late 2004 after huge community backlash, Waverley Council voted against building a crematorium in Waverley Cemetery. It will certainly be interesting to see what happens this time around.