Aghast at state of grave

Dunedin residents Emeritus Prof Martin Ferguson (left) and Stewart Harvey reflect on the ''sad'' state of the grave of Dunedin's first main surveyor, Charles Kettle. Photo by Craig Baxter.
Dunedin residents Emeritus Prof Martin Ferguson (left) and Stewart Harvey reflect on the ''sad'' state of the grave of Dunedin's first main surveyor, Charles Kettle. Photo by Craig Baxter.
Neglect and vandalism have left the Southern Cemetery grave of an important Dunedin early settler, Charles Kettle, in a ''totally shameful'' condition, heritage advocate Stewart Harvey says.

Mr Kettle was Dunedin's first main surveyor, and contributed much to the city, laying out its distinctive pattern of streets, including its central Octagon, and Baldwin St, the world's steepest street.

University of Otago Emeritus Prof Martin Ferguson, who has been studying Mr Kettle's life, noted Kettle Park was named after him, but no statue or other public memorial marked his major contribution as ''the architect of Dunedin'', in terms of its street layout.

Prof Ferguson contacted the Otago Daily Times and Mr Harvey, the chairman of the Historic Cemeteries Conservation Trust of New Zealand, to raise concern about the ''serious disrepair'' of the grave.

Mr Harvey shared those concerns and said more strategic planning and funding were needed to protect the city's heritage, including its historic cemeteries.

The heritage trust had already spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on undertaking restoration work and other improvements in the Southern Cemetery, but more work needed to be done. Mr Kettle's grave could be properly restored for only about $2650, he said.

Mr Harvey hoped to help establish a ''Friends of the Southern Cemetery'' group later this year to help continue improvement work there. Prof Ferguson said part of Mr Kettle's main gravestone had fallen, ''the various stones are hardly legible and the concrete apron is badly fragmented''.

This amounted to ''sad recognition'' of ''this important figure in the city's history''.

Prof Ferguson was grateful to Mr Harvey and his trust committee for their ''splendid work'' in Dunedin's cemeteries.

It would be ''gratifying'' to see the Dunedin City Council back these efforts, he said.

The conservation trust can be contacted via internet at www.cemeteries.org.nz

-john.gibb@odt.co.nz

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