Claim Cardrona car park over graves

Ray Anderson believes divining rods point to graves under the car park at the entrance to...
Ray Anderson believes divining rods point to graves under the car park at the entrance to Cardrona Alpine Resort. PHOTO: SIMON HENDERSON

Bodies are buried at the entrance to Cardrona Alpine Resort, Ray Anderson, of Branch Creek Station, says.

One was in the middle of the road up the mountain and a second was on the left side of the car park, he said.

The car park is next to Cardrona Cemetery on Cardrona Valley Rd.

Mr Anderson, who grew up in a house behind the cemetery, said the cemetery used to extend through what is now the car park.

He was confident there were bodies under the car park because of an incident he recalled from the 1980s.

The skifield was opened by founder John Lee in 1980, and the car park built soon after, Mr Anderson said.

He recalled coming past and seeing a contractor operating a loader.

‘I said, ‘What are you up to?'”

“He said ‘I’m levelling this out for John Lee to make a car park out of it, but actually I’m not sure I should be here, because there’s a coffin lid just come up in front of the bucket’.”

The contractor showed it to Mr Anderson.

“It was a coffin lid, on its own. It was the shape of a coffin,” Mr Anderson said.

When Mr Anderson returned to the site later that day, the lid had been removed.

“It was gone. The evidence was gone.”

He regretted not reporting the incident at the time. “I should have.”

Mr Lee, who was awarded the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2016 for services to business and tourism, said he could not recall or verify if the car park was built on cemetery land, but believed the council had given consent for the car park.

“I thought we kept off what was the cemetery,” he said.

The Cardrona Alpine Resort website states the road up to the skifield site was built without permission from the council in the mid to late 1970s.

Resort general manager Bridget Legnavsky said this was the first she had heard of graves under the car park and had no further information, but she would be willing to allow another party to establish if there were still graves under the car park.

“We would be happy for another party to conduct a test to establish if this correct.”

Cardrona Valley farmer and historian Tim Scurr said the plot records were missing, and as many burials never had headstones, it was difficult to know where they were situated.

“Because the records are missing, the only way you can find out is investigation,” he said.

Mr Anderson said he used divining rods which could be used to find water or gravesites to identify where he believed the burials were.

He acknowledged some people might not believe in divining rods.

People might have been buried outside the cemetery, he said.

“Back in those days, if somebody had done a misdemeanour or something they might have been planted outside the cemetery, for some reason.”

The graves should be reinterred inside the cemetery, instead of being left where cars drove over them every day.

“I don’t know anyone who thinks that is appropriate.”

The Queenstown Lakes District Council was approached for comment, but senior communications adviser Rebecca Pitts said because of the large amount of research required it would need to be dealt with under the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act.

The News has lodged an official information request.

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