More grave rules set to come
Roosters pooing on gravestones and charging at mourners have been upsetting ‘‘the solemn nature’’ of Palmerston North’s Kelvin Grove Cemetery.
The behaviour of the aggressive roosters, vandalism and people building unsafe structures on gravesites will soon be tackled in a city council review.
‘‘There have been several occasions where roosters have been left at the Kelvin Grove cemetery and caused some nuisance, including defecating on headstones and attacking visitors,‘‘ policy analyst Lili Kato said.
The review is happening sooner than planned after mayor Grant Smith called for clearer rules about headstone inscriptions and grave decorations.
His call was prompted by a row in 2015 about an obscenity inscribed on the back of Vincent Drummond-Paulo’s headstone that offended the family tending the grave it backed on to.
The offending word, part of a song title, remains on the headstone and Smith said at the time the vagueness of the bylaw about cemeteries had not helped the situation. That bylaw is now being reviewed.
Kato said there were challenges in managing ceme- teries, as they were public places, but often secluded, with a small staff supervising a large area.
People had access to cemetery grounds outside usual open hours, and sometimes their behaviour was offensive or even criminal.
It is not known why the roosters were there – they may have been dumped – and it’s also not the first time they have fallen foul city officials.
At one point they considered banning roosters from the city, but now favour a system where rooster owners need to get a per- mit.
Kato said other recent problems at the cemetery had included a vehicle driving on the grass causing extensive damage, vandalism of graves and theft of decorations.
Those sort of offences were captured under the Crimes Act, but there were few sanctions for other behaviour or actions that caused a nuisance, such as disrupting services or unveilings.
Education would be of some help, informing people about what was and was not allowed, and about being sensitive to the needs and cultures of other cemetery visitors, she said.
But in some cases, there needed to be firm rules about what people could do in a cemetery.
One of the areas of confusion was about what people thought they bought when they paid for a plot, which was simply an exclusive right of burial, not ownership or control of the land.
Some people thought they could do what they liked with graves the family had paid for, and seeing other people decorating graves, assumed they could do the same.
In fact, people were only allowed to keep floral tributes and other decorations on graves for up to five years, and that only applied if they sought approval each year, and maintained them in a neat and tidy state.
Some people got quite carried away with the extent and scale of grave embellishments.
Kato said sometimes memorials were being built that did not meet health and safety requirements, and some people resisted requests to bring them up to standard.
Councillors in 2016 agreed not to impose rules about the decoration of graves in the children’s area.
The bylaw also needed to clarify whether burial rights lasted forever, or expired.
Grave decorations at Kelvin Grove Cemetery.