PAY RESPECTS: Residents are displeased with the job council staff are doing in maintaining the Biloela Lawn Cemetery.
PAY RESPECTS: Residents are displeased with the job council staff are doing in maintaining the Biloela Lawn Cemetery.

Caring for dry, dusty cemetery

MESSY, dry and disrespectful is how a number of residents have described Banana Shire Council’s maintenance and care of the Biloela Lawn Cemetery.

A single Facebook post by former Biloela resident Greg Klease, regarding his displeasure and sadness at the condition of the lawn cemetery, erupted on the ‘Biloela Remember When …’ page.

Mr Klease and his wife paid their respects to lost friends at the Biloela Lawn Cemetery on January 10 and he said the condition of the cemetery was the worst he had seen since 1979.

“I think the Biloela cemetery would rate as the worst one I’ve seen in the last two years,” Mr Klease said.

“It just hurts to go there and see the names on those tombstones and to think how much energy they put into the community to grow Biloela and get it to where it is now and we don’t care about them.

“I visited a lot of little places outside of Toowoomba and out west and these little cemeteries are a showpiece.”

Owner and operator of Callide Dawson Funerals Jeff Schultz regularly mows, waters and whipersnips areas of the lawn cemetery off his own back in a bid to ‘create an oasis’.

“I don’t mind doing it and generally council will mow with the ride on but we tidy up the area with a push mower, the same you’d do at home,” Mr Schultz said.

“You’d say there’s plenty of room for improvement and I think it’s not very high on councils list in terms of parks and gardens.

“It’s not in the same category as Lions Park, Melton Park or the Civic Centre which is disappointing because I think there’s more people visiting the lawn cemetery everyday then most other places.”

Banana Shire Council chief executive officer Tom Upton said council would soon issue a public statement as council would refocus their efforts to present the lawn cemetery at a higher standard.

However Mr Upton revealed that council was battling against tight budget constraints and a high cost of treated water used to water the lawn cemetery.

“We don’t irrigate a lot of our parks because of the cost of water,” Mr Upton said.

“It’s unusual for a council to irrigate a cemetery but it doesn't mean we won’t do it if there’s a community expectation or wish.

“We are about to recommence negotiations with Sunwater on the cost of water out of the dam and the cost council has to pay.

“It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be knocking down tough’s of grass out of place or weeds in the meantime."

Katrina Sorrensen and her sisters mow, water and whippersnip the area around their father’s grave on a weekly basis and have noticed the lawn cemetery in what they describe as in a poor condition since they buried their father in January 2018.

“We started watering, mowing and whippersnipping around dad’s grave as soon as we realised council didn’t maintain it,” Mrs Sorrensen said.

“It definitely has been, and still is, neglected by council.”

Mr Upton said that council staff took pride and put forward their best effort in maintaining the lawn cemetery.

“I think most of the staff are committed to present things the best way they can with the resources they have and there will be budget constraints,” Mr Upton said.

“It doesn’t mean you always get the best result and certainly we’re looking at that at the present time.”

In his Facebook post Mr Klease suggested that a community or volunteer program be established to assist council in maintaining the lawn cemetery at a higher standard.

Mr Upton said council would offer no resistance and would aim to work with interested volunteers over the coming weeks to perhaps establish a volunteer group.

“I’ve spoken to Mr Schultz from Callide Dawson Funerals and I’m happy to talk to the community about having a Friends to the Cemetery volunteer group if they want to have a program to take a role in co-ordinating what happens down there,” Mr Upton said.

“There’s no resistance from council on that it’s just a case of working out the mechanics of it.”

Moving forward Mr Upton said council was assessing the option of installing a bore water source near the lawn cemetery as part of the Drought Communities Program.