Graveyard survey will aid in conservation

Robert Findlay, convener of community group, Tokomairiro Project 60. PHOTO: CHRISTINE O'CONNOR
Robert Findlay, convener of community group, Tokomairiro Project 60. PHOTO: CHRISTINE O'CONNOR
Undertaking a survey of an old graveyard near Milton will help bring a conservation project closer to a positive outcome, Robert Findlay says.

"It's taken a long time to make the decision to do the survey, but now that's done, we can make progress," he said.

"It's another step on the pathway," he said this week.

The intention is for the cemetery to be surveyed, to mark the portion where the graves are and then fence the area off.

The survey will go ahead once a caveat on the land has been fully investigated. It is not clear how long that will take.

Mr Findlay convenes a community group, Tokomairiro Project 60, which is working with University of Otago researchers on the project at the St John's Church of England Cemetery in Back Rd, at Tokoiti.

Archaeological and forensic analysis of the cemetery has been undertaken by researchers led by Associate Prof Hallie Buckley, of the Otago anatomy department, and Dr Peter Petchey, of the Otago anthropology and archaeology department.

The first known burial was in 1860 and the last in 1926.

The cemetery had long been neglected. Only six full headstones had survived and the community group was keen to restore and protect the graveyard.

Mr Findlay said a recent move by the Anglican Diocese of Dunedin, to fund a survey of the boundaries at the church property would help the project move forward.

That would enable a fence to be put up and then it was planned to level off the area, and plant lawn grass, which would be done in either spring this year or autumn next year.

A bench for visitors, a sign, some interpretive panels and a commemorative plaque containing the names of 90 people now known to be in the graveyard area would be added later.

Mr Findlay met the Clutha District Council chief executive Steve Hill on Monday to update him on the project and the group will make a submission to the Clutha annual plan.

A huge amount had been achieved in the overall project, including a great deal of success by the researchers, and an unexpectedly large number of people had now been identified in the graveyard area.

He hoped a lawn graveyard could be developed, and could be mowed regularly by the Clutha council, like the nearby Fairfax Cemetery.

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