More grave rules set to come

The Tribune (NZ) - - YOUR LOCAL NEWS - JA­NINE RANKIN

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.

PHOTO: MUR­RAY WIL­SON/STUFF

Grave dec­o­ra­tions at Kelvin Grove Ceme­tery.

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