An eight-year project to create a new cemetery area in Ashburton came to fruition this week.
The new site, on Seafield Road beside the town’s original cemetery, should provide for the district’s needs for the next 30-40 years, said Mayor Neil Brown.
The $1.5 million cemetery extension has room for 1300 conventional burial plots and almost 700 conventional ashes plots, in additional to the natural burial and ashes scattering garden areas. The area was officially blessed and opened on Thursday.
Tewera King, upoko of Te Runanga o Arowhenua, led a karakia with Mr Brown and they were joined by Ashburton District Councillors, council chief executive Hamish Riach, staff and representatives from the contractor, Ashburton Contracting Ltd (ACL) and consultant Davis Olgilvie.
Mr Brown said the unique project had transformed the area.
‘‘This cemetery is a critical and well-considered investment in the needs of our growing and increasingly culturally diverse community. As well as providing conventional burial plots, it also provides for a variety of burial options that weren’t previously available in our district, including a Muslim burial area, a natural burial area and an ashes scattering garden.’’
Work on the new cemetery began in February last year after the construction tender was awarded to ACL. The brief was to develop 5.6 hectares of council-owned land adjacent to the eastern end of the original cemetery, which had been approaching full capacity.
Concept plans were developed in 2012, followed by public consultation in 2013 and resource consent approval in 2017.
ACL chief executive Gary Casey said the project had been one of the more unique ones the contractor had undertaken.
‘‘We’d built roads and bridges before, but getting the chance to build a cemetery is something that doesn’t come around very often.
‘‘Our team is very proud to have been a part of this important project. Not only does this cemetery cater for more culturally diverse remembrance needs, but it has been specially designed with contingency in mind so that it can adapt if particular burial options fall in and out of favour in the years to come.”
ACL installed internal roads, burial and ashes beams, water reticulation systems and stormwater reticulation including soak pits, as well as widened Seafield Road to improve access and safety into the cemetery. Their sub-contractor, father and son Murray and Tawny Wagstaff, completed the impressive hand-built stone entranceway.
Vehicle access to the cemetery is between 8am and 5.30pm during winter and between 7.30am and 7.30pm in the summer months. Burial plots can be purchased from council.