Possible memorial for ashes
Descendants of interred ashes at a West Auckland cemetery are being urged to connect with Auckland Council.
Waikumete Cemetery is looking into creating a suitable memorial for nearly 1800 people whose ashes are interred in vaults near the Chapel of Faith in the Oaks, and wants to hear from families involved.
Campaigner Terry Fergusson set up a Facebook page called Honour the 1800 and wants Auckland Council to readdress the ‘mistreatment’ ashes.
He is aggrieved that the ashes were moved in the 1970s and placed in a nameless vault.
‘‘The fact that other families are coming forward, about their own loved ones being flung into this mass nameless grave, shows me that this action by council is hurtful and upsetting,’’ Fergusson says.
A relative of Fergusson’s is among the 1800 ashes interred and he says if his family was made aware of the decision to shift the ashes they would have collected them so he could rest with his whakapapa in the Hokianga.
Auckland cemeteries manager Catherine Moore says following Fergusson’s campaign, calls have been made to open up the vaults and return ashes to relatives but she says a number of issues need to be considered first.
‘‘These were unclaimed ashes that date back as far as the 1920s that were carefully laid to rest in a vault in the late 1970s – nearly 40 years ago now – by the Waikumete Restoration Trust and the then Auckland City Council which managed the cemetery.
‘‘This was intended to be the final resting place of the ashes that, despite extensive advertising and news stories at the time, remained unclaimed.’’
She says opening the vaults could cause damage to the ashes and boxes and labels may have deteriorated making identification extremely difficult.
Moore says several descendants have contacted the cemetery to enquire about their loved ones’ ashes.
Auckland Council says a variety of issues need to be considered before opening the vault of interred ashes of nearly 1800 people.