The Clareville Cemetery where several grave sites have been reduced to mud. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

CHELSEA BOYLE

chelsea.boyle@age.co.nz

Carterton’s Brian Bailey was visiting a loved one’s grave in Clareville Cemetery when he noticed large muddy track marks running over the top of several graves.

Over the next two days, the damage would worsen, reducing the commemorative sites to a “mud bath”.

Mr Bailey said it looked like the damage was caused by a council digger, “carelessly” running over the graves to dig a new one.

“You expect the council to treat the graves with respect and clearly in this case they have not done so.”

When he first noticed the damage, he wrote to Carterton District Council chief executive Jane Davis and put the letter in the post on Friday morning along with some photos.

“I went down there again on Saturday and I have to say, I was just completely horrified,” Mr Bailey said.

He understood they had needed to fill in the new grave, he said.

“But in doing so, it would appear they had driven lorries over the graves again.

“They turned it literally into a mud bath.”

Mr Bailey said he had written to the council a few years ago about something similar.

“I did suggest to them that when it was wet that there was a simple solution to avoid damaging graves, and that was literally three sheets of plywood on which you run the vehicles,” he said.

“Therefore, avoiding any damage to the graves at all.

“And obviously nobody has taken any notice.”

He said in fairness to the employees, he did not know if they had been given instructions about what to do when the ground was wet.

“I don’t know, but it’s a question that I am waiting for the council to answer quite frankly.”

Carterton District Council Parks and Reserves manager Clinton Thompson confirmed a digger had damaged an area in the cemetery while preparing a new grave on Friday.

“The team are really disappointed they couldn’t avoid creating the damage,” he said.

“While we’ve been using lighter equipment to reduce the impact, we just haven’t been able to avoid damaging the surface of the ground.”

High continual rainfall this winter had made ground conditions incredibly wet, and that had made day-to-day operations challenging, Mr Thompson said.

They were doing their best, and would look into ways to protect wet grass in the future.

“Now that the burial has taken place the team has already started remediation work, including bringing in new topsoil.”

New grass growth should take off during the spring.

“Unfortunately, it’s going to look a bit unsightly until the grass grows,” Mr Thompson said.

“We know that the damage to the wet ground caused by the digger has distressed members of the community.

“We are pleased that the community take just as much pride in their cemetery as we do.”

A council spokesperson confirmed there were no set instructions about how to access graves in wet weather.

The team responsible made their own call on what to do under different conditions – “they are experienced and know the cemetery well”.