Historic Whangārei Cemetery “strewn with garbage and rats”


Roy Fyfe says the Mission Ground cemetery in Whangarei is neglected and needs regular mowing and bins installed. Photo / Tania Whyte

Discarded beer bottles and shot glasses, dirty masks and weed so long that rats and other vermin started to appear.

That was the recent state of one of the Mission Ground cemeteries, according to Roy Fyfe, a concerned Whangārei resident.

Fyfe estimates that the cemetery, located at the end of Selwyn Ave, is only mowed four times a year, and the grass had recently grown “at least half a meter high”.

Elderly people found it difficult to visit monuments in the cemeteries of Whangārei’s founding fathers, he said.

Fyfe wants the board to hold it better.

“It’s an absolute shambles,” he said.

“It’s our heritage; they were the first settlers of Whangārei and founded the city. They deserve better.”

The lawns were mowed the day after the defender of the north asked Whangārei District Council, which maintains the property, for an answer as to why they had become so lush.

When the grass gets that long, the birdlife also disappears, Fyfe said.

Fyfe, who lives nearby, said there was also a need for bins at the cemetery.

Every fortnight, he walks around the site to pick up beer bottles and other discarded rubbish.

Fyfe said he contacted the council several times over the past few months about the state of the cemetery.

“Now we get vermin; rats can come from the stream because the grass is so long and they have hiding places.

“It’s the worst I’ve seen.

“I just did a big cleaning and received 10 bottles of beer, shot glasses, bottles of wine and half a dozen face masks.

“I pick it up because I don’t want whoever is mowing it hitting bottles, and the kids go there too.

“I just want some sort of mowing schedule. Maybe they could put a trash can in there for people to put their trash in.”

Fyfe believes that the graveyard grass, located at the end of Selwyn Ave, is now "at least half a meter high".  Photo / Tania Whyte
Fyfe estimates that the grass in the cemetery, located at the end of Selwyn Ave, is now “at least half a meter high”. Photo / Tania Whyte

This is not the first time the cemetery has been abandoned.

The cemetery was operational as a “public cemetery” between 1852 and 1941.

After Whangārei Borough Council closed the cemetery in 1941, it fell into disrepair.

The headstones were removed and cemented to the concrete band, to be later removed and buried in Kioreroa Cemetery.

Council spokeswoman Ann Midson said lawns are usually mowed every two to three weeks.

However, for the past three weeks there has been a “fall blush that has lasted much longer” causing the grass to grow faster, she said.

“Normally we would have had a few cold nights by now and probably a couple of double digit days, but we haven’t had that – we’re at 24 degrees, which is summer temperature.”

In addition to the current growth spurt, one of the four employees who maintain the cemeteries has been absent during a busy period.

“We’ve had an unfortunate set of situations here, all of which conspire to delay our usual mowing of this area.

“We take great pride in the care and upkeep of our cemeteries, both to show respect to those who rest there and to show kindness to those who visit. Usually those who visit take the same approach.”

Midson said the mowing will be done by the end of last week.

The council’s general approach to rubbish was that people visiting public spaces should take it with them, she said.

“When we put up bins in places like this, people abuse them and that causes an even bigger problem. So we’re going to put up signs asking people to take their trash with them.”


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