Council apologises

Published on 06 August 2019

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A number of headstones laid down at ‘The Bight Cemetery’ - Wingham will be repaired, MidCoast Council has confirmed.

Council has apologised to the community for the angst and hurt experienced as a result of the implementation of the monument risk assessment program.

Of the 59 headstones laid down at the cemetery, Council has confirmed that approximately 47 will be restored.

“The intent of the program is to protect the public and while we remain committed to this outcome, we have got the implementation of this program horribly wrong,” Council’s Director of Liveable Communities, Paul De Szell said.

As a result the program has been suspended while a full review is undertaken.

The repairs for the identified headstones will be undertaken at Council’s cost and as quickly as possible, Mr De Szell said.

The remaining headstones – approximately 12 - will stay down due to safety concerns.

“Several very old headstones, on the eastern side of the cemetery near the existing tree line, had been broken in storms during November and December last year.”

Mr De Szell and Council’s Manager of Community Spaces, Recreation and Trades, Dan Aldridge, will attend the community meeting to be held in Wingham on Sunday to address community concerns.

The program, undertaken by Council staff, was implemented to address public safety concerns in relation to monuments.

Council had spoken to its Heritage Reference Group about the program prior to implementation.

“When we presented the program to the reference group we discussed the original intent of the program – however it is in the practical implementation of the program that things have gone wrong. This is a concern both to us and to the reference group.”

Council confirmed a crane had been used to lay down several of the larger monuments.

“In manoeuvring a vehicle around the cemetery it appears that it has encroached on the edge of a grave.  This isn’t acceptable and we apologise.”

Council indicated that while the heritage status of ‘The Bight Cemetery’ does not place any restrictions on Council’s management of the area the review of the program will take into account the National Trust Guidelines for Cemetery Conservation and other conservation advice.