by Michael Giles
IT’S a quirk of history that the Bass Coast Shire Council has been the long-term managers of the Wonthaggi and San Remo cemeteries.
The Borough of Wonthaggi ran the Wonthaggi cemetery before shire amalgamations in 1994 and its involvement stretches right back to the establishment of the town, we are told.
But it’s time, ladies and gentlemen. It’s time.
A few weeks ago there was a terrible incident at the Wonthaggi cemetery involving an excavator/drill and one of the graves that has once again highlighted why the shire should not be involved.
Where most Category B cemeteries in the state are managed by volunteer community trusts, with little or no municipal involvement, Wonthaggi and San Remo are managed by the shire, and as is their wont, they apply the same levels of governance and compliance that they would with any of their own operations.
The associated expense of which far outstrips what it costs to run the excellent cemeteries at Korumburra and Leongatha, for example, both of which are operated by the community.
And there’s every indication that the problem that arose at Wonthaggi a few weeks ago would never have happened if a community trust had responsibility.
It should also be noted that while Leongatha and Korumburra both have modest but satisfactory toilets, which are opened for funerals, Wonthaggi does not.
A cash-strapped shire like Bass Coast, which should be looking for savings wherever they can be found, and concentrating on core responsibilities, needs to hand back the two local cemeteries it manages to the Department of Health and Human Services for them to appoint a local community committee.
However prior to handing it over to the community, the council might like to consider whether the Wonthaggi cemetery is even in the right place, next to the tip, on low-lying, hard-to-drain ground.
There has been a suggestion that a new cemetery should be established north of the Cape Paterson township and that would-be housing estate developers there might be prepared to contribute to the project.
Whatever the case, the shire should aim to have the cemeteries off their hands within the next 12 months.