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Canberra Today 21°/24° | Tuesday, December 7, 2021 | Digital Edition | Crossword & Sudoku

Cemetery shock as landscaping lost to expansion

Gungahlin cemetery… looks like “a bomb had hit it”, says Ange McNeilly

A GIRALANG woman says she’s devastated by the “war zone” like state of a cemetery as it undergoes an expansion in north Canberra.

Ange McNeilly.

Ange McNeilly, 68, who visits the Gungahlin cemetery regularly to tend to her parents’ graves, was “shocked” by the cemetery’s appearance when she visited with her sister recently.

Expecting to see a normally well-manicured cemetery, Ms McNeilly found a graveyard that looked like “a bomb had hit it” with previously landscaped areas adjacent to her parents’ graves being cleared for further burial plots.

“All the trees and hedges gone, there are piles of dirt and channels of water everywhere, and railings ripped up and left in a heap,” Ms McNeilly says.

“What was once a quiet, secluded and intimate spot is now open to the elements, to the road and to vandalism with none of the seclusion and ambience that had attracted the choice of the spot in the first place.

“It’s gut wrenching.”

Gungahlin cemetery… looks like “a bomb had hit it”, says Ange McNeilly

The site that Ms McNeilly confronted is part of the ACT government’s Gungahlin cemetery expansion that will provide an additional 150 burial plots, a car park upgrade, more water taps and improved garden beds.

With Canberra’s growing population it was inevitable that additional burial sites would need to be identified for future use.

But Ms McNeilly expressed her disappointment at the lack of clear information and adequate signage advising cemetery visitors of the changes underway.

“We don’t know what the plan is, we weren’t given any warning about it,  and I don’t know if it was even advertised anywhere,” Ms McNeilly says.

“It’s very disrespectful that people who have loved ones there weren’t given an opportunity of knowing what’s going on.

“Anyone who has a loved one in this section of the cemetery is going to be shocked when they arrive because they will not recognise the place.”

Little did Ms McNeilly realise when she laid her parents to rest that the quiet and tranquil area was to be transformed into a less peaceful environment.

“It was a really nice secluded spot we chose for them and now it’s completely open,” Ms McNeilly says.

“We always set up beautiful flowers on their grave, but when we got there the other day most of the flowers had blown away, everything was dishevelled and messy, and now that the area is more open we are worried things will go missing.”

A City Services spokesperson told “CityNewsthat expansion works at Section 12 of the cemetery were to meet demand as the cemetery reached capacity. 

The work, which began in August, has been delayed due to COVID-19 lockdowns, but should be finished in December, the spokesperson said.

Signage was erected to notify visitors of the works, the spokesperson told “CityNews”, but conceded that Canberra Memorial Parks will update existing signs to be “more visible”.

The spokesperson acknowledged that works occurring in close proximity to Section 12 were creating a “temporary disruption” to those visiting loved ones.

“However, we assure the community we are working as quickly as possible to complete these works with minimal disruptions to those visiting the cemetery,” the spokesperson said.

But Ms McNeilly feels more could have been done to let relatives know in advance that the work would be carried out.

“There was a small, insignificant sign informing people of what was happening, but it’s in small writing, and you have to get out of the car to read it,” Ms McNeilly says.

“The water taps nearby have also been turned off so we had to get water from a channel to put in a vase of flowers for my parents’ graves.

“The disruption will no doubt make many people who have loved ones buried in this particular area very upset indeed.”





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Belinda Strahorn

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