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By Madeleine Gray on May 4, 2017 in News

Photo: Soily Fitzgibbon

If you’ve been reading the Letters section of The Beast over the past few years, then you’ll know that what goes on at Waverley Cemetery and the coastal walk that it backs on to is of paramount concern to several dedicated groups of local citizens. However, those who are less vocal are also stakeholders, despite their voices rarely being heard above the din. The cemetery is the burial place of thousands of deceased members of our community, and is visited by mourners and sightseers alike. After all, it has got to be one of the most scenic cemeteries in the world.

The precarious position of the cemetery on the precipice of the coastal cliffs at Bronte has meant there has been much land slippage into the ocean over the past several years, in particular. High seas and powerful waves from storms like last June’s ‘super storm’ thrash against the rocks, forcing bits of the cliff face to crumble into the sea. Part of the coastal walk itself is built on landfill, which has been amassing for decades.

A Waverley Council spokesperson confirmed that the June 2016 storms alone had “eroded approximately five metres of the landfill embankment along the cemetery’s coastal edge.”

Council hired a coastal engineer to conduct a post-storm report, which found that the coastal walk in its current state was inherently structurally undermined due to its landfill base. Further, the report found that “the gully is made up of an igneous dyke through the centre, contributing to further embankment instability”.

According to the report, the most cost effective solution to this instability is “to build a sea wall at the toe of the gully; this will minimise the amount of soil to be removed from site, and protect the gully from future storm events.”

Aesthetically, this will mean that a large ‘wall’ will sit at the base of the gully, next to the ocean, while stone revetments and rock armoring will be placed in an upwardly diagonal, tessellating pattern along the gully’s slope, to allow for stone overtopping.

A new and improved coastal walk will sit a little further back than the path’s current position, and between it and the cliff’s edge there will be space for a timber deck, seating area and viewing point.

In October last year, the cemetery gained a place on the State Heritage Register after an application was lodged by devoted community group, Friends of Waverley Cemetery.

Heritage Minister Mark Speakman said the Heritage Council for NSW awarded Waverley Cemetery this listing based on the cemetery’s spectacular “genealogical, historical, architectural and artistic character”.

This plan seeks to ensure that Minister Speakman’s comments remain true for many years to come.

Council’s next steps are to give a cemetery stakeholder presentation, ensure Crown Land consent to undertake the changes, and then move in to the detailed design stage of the process.

The hope seems to be that the cemetery’s Heritage Listing will make grant claims for cemetery preservation far more likely to be successful. Here’s hoping.