Proserpine Cemetery. Picture: Matthew Newton / The Guardian
Proserpine Cemetery. Picture: Matthew Newton / The Guardian

Outrage over Whitsunday council’s ‘disgusting’ cemetery plan

Whitsunday Regional Council is in hot water after a post on its official Facebook page about gravesites sparked outrage and even led to a call for councillors to be sacked.

The post, published on Friday, called on residents to help maintain “tidy gravesites” in the region.

“In accordance with our cemetery policy, we are asking residents to visit their site and remove any excess memorabilia, ornaments or flowers,” it said.

“This will ensure we are able to maintain our cemeteries to a high standard and keep these areas tidy and safe for all visitors.

“The policy allows fresh flowers over the gravesite for the first month after interment and after that period a vase may be purchased from council for display of artificial flowers. Other items or structures are only allowed with the approval of council.”

The post went on to say that residents needed to remove any excess items by Friday, March 19 or the council would step in to remove items which may pose a risk to visitors and staff.

Whitsunday Regional Council's Facebook post about gravesites in the region.
Whitsunday Regional Council's Facebook post about gravesites in the region.

The post, which was still visible on the council’s Facebook page on Saturday afternoon, attracted more than 300 comments – with most people expressing their anger over the plan.

“How rude. This is so disgusting,” Facebook user Megan Taupaki wrote.

“People should be able to put what they would like on their loved one’s resting place as long as it’s safe.”

Others commented that they could not believe what they were reading, while Bowen resident Kate Smith described it as “pathetic and insensitive”.

But there were a small number of people who defended the council’s decision.

“Guys it’s become a bloody mess,” Amy Louise Graham wrote.

“It looks messy and I’d imagine has become too much for them to constantly be picking up memorabilia.”

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Whitsunday Mayor Andrew Willcox. Picture: Elyse Wurm
Whitsunday Mayor Andrew Willcox. Picture: Elyse Wurm

In a statement posted on Facebook addressing the controversy, Whitsunday Mayor Andrew Willcox said he was not aware the message about gravesites was going to be posted.

“The Whitsunday region’s cemeteries have not been discussed by myself and elected councillors in a council meeting in recent times, and as such I ask for the appropriate time to address this sensitive topic with councillors, the CEO and senior council staff,” Cr Willcox said.

“After these discussions an official statement will be released.

“Please understand that I cannot provide official comment until the matter has been discussed with my fellow councillors.

“I apologise for any distress and upset this has caused, and I will ensure the council continues to create a peaceful environment within the cemeteries for the community to grieve and remember lost loved ones.”

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