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Graves under the radar

 

More than 30 unmarked graves could be uncovered in an Eketahuna paddock. PHOTO/GEORGE SHIERS

Ground radar technology could help rediscover lost graves in Eketahuna’s first cemetery if plans to survey a paddock east of the town go ahead.
Eketahuna and Districts Early Settlers Museum is planning to restore the cemetery and wanted to use ground radars to find the unmarked graves in a newly empty paddock.
There could be as many as 31 graves from the 1890s in the Alfredton Rd paddock, including many children.
A new cemetery was built as a replacement after the river washed through the graves and poisoned the town’s water supply more than 100 years ago.
Eketahuna Museum Chair Bridget Wellwood said they had first looked into the project about 10 years ago, however, the paddock was since leased to graze cattle.
“[This is an] Eketahuna Museum project to restore the dignity of the early settler’s cemetery.
“It has been sadly neglected for quite a long time, and now that the lease is up, we’d like to move forwards on our project.
“We would like to find out where the graves are, and the best way to do that without digging around is ground-penetrating radar.”
The museum said the radar was estimated to cost $8000 for one week but said it would probably only take a few days to scan the entire area.
The museum was applying for funding from Tararua District Council through the Eketahuna Community Board.
“A week would be plenty of time. It could only take a couple of days.
“It’s not a large area, but we don’t know the extent of this.
“There are from 11 to 31 names – we know a lot of children died.”
The first concept for the restored cemetery included a walkway through the paddock and markers placed to identify where people were buried.
It was hoped that progress on the cemetery could be underway before the town’s jubilee next year, which would mark 150 years of European settlement in the area.
“We felt it would just be nice to have somewhere for the people buried there,” Wellwood said.
“For those families that come next year or in the future, there’s somewhere for them to pause and reflect.”
There were also community plans for the paddock to be turned into a dog park. A combined area with a dog park and a fenced-off memorial section was one option being considered.
If the scanning went ahead, it would not be the first time radar technology had been used to sweep a Wairarapa cemetery.
In 2009, eight unmarked graves were discovered at Clareville Cemetery near Carterton, including those of two children.

George Shiers
George Shiers
George Shiers is a reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age interested in politics and social issues. He reports regularly on a range of topics including infrastructure, housing, and transport. George is also the Tararua reporter and helps cover police, fire and court stories.

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