Council deliberations on whether or not to allow a choice of monument in the Forbes Lawn Cemetery are continuing after the matter returned to the March council meeting – and was adjourned for further investigation.
Last month the council proposed allowing 600mm by 900mm headstones to be publicly displayed, asking the community to comment.
After receiving around 100 responses – split 60% to 40 against the proposal – councilors opened discussions instead by looking into the possibility of placing plaques comparable to the current size on a slight rise.
They decided to investigate for these plates to be raised by 2 cm at the front and 5 cm at the rear.
Council staff reported to the meeting that NSW Cemeteries and Crematoria had received a complaint from a burial rights holder over the proposal.
The organization has asked Forbes Shire Council to consider – and seek legal advice – whether allowing any alterations to the existing lawn graves section would breach contractual obligations.
Council staff’s recommendation was not to allow any monuments to be placed on sections of the lawn cemetery that have already been laid out.
They suggested that councilors be provided with a design for the southern section that would allow the installation of monuments and expedite the development of this southern section.
Councilors voted to postpone the decision, to investigate raised plates of equivalent size not exceeding 5cm at the rear and 2cm at the front.
They will also study the legal implications of allowing the retrospective installation of raised plates.
Deputy Mayor Chris Roylance, Cr Michele Herbert and Cr Aidan Clarke spoke about the slight elevation of the current size plaques.
“It was…to be a small embossed feature just to make it easier to read, so families could read their plates and they wouldn’t get marred by rain or the elements,” Cr Herbert said.
“I know some people would like a bigger one and I think we should, in line with how it looks now, allow people who have already had their families buried to have this little raised plaque.
“The comments that have been received represent only about one percent of our population…but I am very sensitive that both sides of what has been represented are valid and I think we need to be really sensitive to the needs of These persons.”
Cr Herbert added that perhaps those who had bought plots in the already developed sections would be allowed to transfer them to new sections if they wanted a larger monument.
A community member had earlier addressed the meeting, speaking out against allowing the headstones, but saying that borehole water had deposited on the flat plates and caused them to erode.
Cr Roylance agreed that the existing plates were starting to fade and supported raising them at an angle.
THE STORY SO FAR
Cr Marg Duggan agreed that “it looks good the way it is”, as did Cr Brian Mattiske.
“If people want to change and add a monument, there are other areas that will (allow) a monument,” Cr Duggan suggested.
Mayor Phyllis Miller spoke of the change, recalling previous years when council staff walked through the lawn part of the cemetery throwing flowers.
“I think it has to be in line with the plaques that are there…but we’re 50 years old and we need to make some changes,” she said.
“I think we’ve been very slow to make changes, I think it’s caught up with us as a board for being so old fashioned with these old style plates for so long.
“I think we have to be really aware as we go into this new section that we really have a reflection on how we want it to look in the future.”
The mayor added that it was disappointing that councilors had no options after deciding – last October – to allow headstones and receive a report on the appropriate sizing.
She spoke on behalf of the council “taking her time” – and Cr Herbert agreed that was the most respectful way to proceed on such a sensitive issue.
“We need to make sure we’re doing the right thing for everyone,” Mayor Miller said.