The Bight Cemetery, Wingham repair program

Wingham Bight Cemetery Repair Map 24-9-19 web version.jpg

We are currently developing an action plan for the repair of headstones damaged at the Bight Cemetery, Wingham.

Council is committed to working with families to ensure the restoration of the headstones that were incorrectly laid down during July 2019.

A formal apology for the actions of Council that damaged headstones at The Bight Cemetery has been made to families via direct contact from the Mayor, a media release (link) and a resolution of the Council meeting of 28 August 2019(PDF, 375KB).

Click here to download a copy of the map and to view images of each of the headstones referred to.(PDF, 1MB)

The map above identifies each of the headstones proposed to be repaired. It is important to note that following discussions with families and an assessment of all headstones, a small number of the headstones that were initially identified as requiring repair have been removed from the map.

Several of the older headstones were originally wrapped in plastic film to protect them while we work with families on their repair. These headstones have now been unwrapped based on the advice of the National Trust. 

We are currently working with the Office of Environment and Heritage to gain a licence to undertake the repair works on the site, given it is the home of the critically endangered yellow donkey-orchid. We envisage this will be in place and we will be able to start work on the site by the end of November subject to agreement being reached with each affected family.

During October we will be making direct contact with families to discuss the scope of works required on individual headstones.

We are also currently developing an action plan to guide the restoration of damaged headstones. This action plan will include the standard of the repairs the community can expect to see, the options available for family members who are not satisfied with Council’s decision and a range of other matters. The action plan will be reported to Council and available on this page once completed.

We are now working on implementing a number of outcomes identified by the community at a public meeting on 11 August. The table below outlines the actions we are undertaking to address the community’s desired outcomes.

These actions were endorsed at Council’s ordinary meeting of 11 September 2019. A copy of the full report can be accessed here(PDF, 648KB).

 Community's desired Outcomes   Council actions 
 1.   That Council provide a heartfelt apology for the hurt   and distress caused to families and the community by the   damage at The Bight Cemetery  Agreed – It was accepted that apologies had already been provided by the General Manager and Director of   Liveable Communities. It was also agreed that personalised letters of apology would be sent to each affected family as they became known to Council. This process has commenced with letters sent from the Office of the   Mayor.
 

 At its meeting of 28 August the Council also resolved to:

 “formally apologise to the Community and particularly to the families of those impacted by events at The Bight   Cemetery, and that we as councillors are sincerely sorry for this outcome, and that we support all necessary   measures commenced and to be undertaken to rectify the situation and to ensure that it doesn’t happen again”.

 2.   Council undertake the restitution of ALL damaged   headstones in The Bight Cemetery regardless of their past   reasoning or justifications, as a sign of goodwill and true   apology to the community

 

 It was agreed that the community expect the Council to restore and rectify all damaged headstones   at the Bight cemetery.

 It is agreed that Council will restore and rectify all damaged headstones at The Bight Cemetery,   where the damage has been either caused by Council or storm activity in November and December   2018.

 3.   That council commit to a community education   program to fully explain the Memorials Risk Assessment   Program, the nature of its impacts and rollout program

 Agreed – A commitment was given to develop an education program once a Memorials Risk Assessment Program is formally developed, reviewed, publicly exhibited and adopted by Council. This education program would occur prior to the commencement of any formally adopted Memorials Risk Assessment Program

 4.   Council to commit to the development of a timed Action Plan to restore the headstones at the Bight Cemetery and a separate timed Action Plan in relation to the Memorials Risk Assessment Program.  

 Agreed – A commitment was given at the public meeting that separate action plans would be prepared for: 1. Restoration of headstones at The Bight Cemetery; and 2. A Memorials Risk Assessment Program

It is expected that a via draft action plan for the Restoration of headstones at The Bight Cemetery will be presented as part of the next update report to Council.

 5.   That a full meeting of Council determine their reporting requirements until all matters in relation to this issue are resolved  Agreed – As a result of this report the Council is able to determine reporting requirements as it sees fit.
 6.   That Council commits to regular reporting progress on the Action Plan on the council website, posts to the Council Facebook page, together with media releases the first of which is to occur not more than 3 months from the date of this meeting.  

Agreed – Council has worked and communicated closely with the “Blight of the Bight” group and has reported on progress since the public meeting on the Council’s website, via posts to the Council Facebook page and media releases.

This update report has been provided within three months of the public meeting and further reporting and draft action plans will be provided within this timeframe.

 7.   The Monuments Risk Assessment and Management Program remain suspended until:

  • the Council review is completed,
  • a comprehensive Cemeteries Policy and set of processes and procedures is developed in consultation with community representatives, the Heritage Advisor, Heritage Reference group, National Trust and other stakeholders and subject matter experts
  • The Cemeteries Policy, processes and procedures are tested under expert and community supervision
  •  The complete policy and potential impacts is presented at community meetings across the MidCoast allowing Council to explain why this is necessary and how it will be rolled out and for people have an opportunity to comment and ask questions about the policy
  • Council workers are trained and/or experts brought in
 Agreed - All work in relation to the laying down of headstones in The Bight and other cemeteries was indefinitely suspended on 26 July and will not recommence until each point is addressed and satisfactorily completed

 

 8.   That the assessment program address ALL risks in a cemetery

 

 Agreed – Any new Memorials Risk Assessment Program formally developed, reviewed, publicly exhibited and adopted by Council must address all risks in a cemetery.
 9.   The Assessment program treat assessment and Action/management as separate events.

In short:

  • Notification of family
  • Assessment/Testing (including documentation)
  • Consultation
  • Agreed Actions (what agreed actions, by when, by whom)
  • Supervised Action.
 

 Agreed - Any new Memorials Risk Assessment Program formally developed, reviewed, publicly exhibited and adopted by Council will separately address Assessment and Action/Management as separate events.

 

 10.   That consideration be given to other options to secure headstones at imminent risk of falling such as:
  • to tag at risk headstones,
  • to support the headstone or exclude people from the immediate area, until family can be contacted and repairs carried out. (Council would retain the right to lay the headstone down if the family cannot be found or repairs not be carried out within an agreed time (timeframe to be agreed).

Such an approach, with appropriate consultation with community and Heritage experts, could be considered if the “Assessment only” part of the Program needs to proceed in parallel with the work in (7) above

 

 Any new Memorials Risk Assessment Program formally developed, reviewed, publicly exhibited and adopted by Council will need to look at a range of options to secure headstones at imminent risk of falling.

 

 11.   That full documentation, including photos, be created for each monument assessed and these be made available through the Council website  

 Agreed – This information is currently provided on Council’s website in relation to the work undertaken at the Bight Cemetery. A formal process for documenting headstones will need to be incorporated into any new Memorials Risk Assessment Program formally developed, reviewed, publicly exhibited and adopted by Council.

 12.   That any work carried out by Council as a result of an adverse risk assessment be done in accordance with National Trust Guidelines with expert supervision  

 Agreed – A commitment was given that any work carried out by Council as a result of an adverse risk assessment would be done in accordance with National Trust Guidelines with expert supervision for monuments over 50 years in age.

 13.   That the assessment framework and criteria be made available so families may make their own proactive, amateur, assessments of family headstone and take corrective action if they feel warranted without prejudice to the Council program  

 Any new Memorials Risk Assessment Program formally developed, reviewed, publicly exhibited and adopted by Council will identify a clear assessment framework and criteria for decision making. These will be freely available online for all interested parties.

 14.   That there be wider promotion and longer notification periods be used because many families are outside the area and consideration be given to large notices being posted on cemetery gates  Any new Memorials Risk Assessment Program formally developed, reviewed, publicly exhibited and adopted by Council will identify appropriate notification periods for families that are located outside the area.
15.    That the Council modify their system used to manage Council Cemeteries to include a “Register of Family Interests in Graves in the Municipality”.  This concept was generally agreed however the timing is uncertain as the intent is to utilise the Property and Rating Phase (Phase 2) of MC1 Implementation to develop a new system for cemetery management.
16.    That a Beautification program be developed for the Bight cemetery

Agreed – It was generally agreed that Beautification program should be developed for the Bight cemetery. It was accepted however that this was the third priority following the development of separate action plans for:

1. Restoration of headstones at the Bight Cemetery;

and 2. A Memorials Risk Assessment Program

 

Council will consult with the community, our heritage advisor, the Heritage Reference Group, the National Trust, Cemeteries and Crematoria NSW and the Office of Environment and Heritage as we move forward.

We will also continue to work with the Blight of the Bight Group.

If you would like to register your family’s interest in one of the impacted monuments, please use the form below.