Proserpine Cemetery is one of the region’s cemeteries impacted by the policy. Photo: Matthew Newton
Proserpine Cemetery is one of the region’s cemeteries impacted by the policy. Photo: Matthew Newton

‘We stuffed up’: Raft of changes made to cemeteries policy

A raft of changes have been made to Whitsunday Regional Council's cemeteries policy in the wake of community uproar about the previous policy.

At Wednesday's council meeting, Whitsunday councillors unanimously voted to revoke the former policy and adopt a revised policy.

The new policy addresses a number of contentious points that drew harsh community criticism earlier this month.

Amendments now include allowing flowers and wreaths to be placed directly on graves for two months after interment, rather than one month, and allowing adornments on graves if they are secure and do not encroach on other graves.

Residents also will be able to provide their own vase if it is 300mm high or less, does not encroach on other graves and is made of concrete, granite or another durable material.

Council staff will not remove any items of value falling outside the policy without three attempts to contact the next of kin or family members.

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If the council cannot make contact, the items will be stored for two months at the nearest council office.

At Wednesday's council meeting, infrastructure services acting director Adam Hagy said a review was undertaken of policies at the other 77 Queensland councils to guide the new cemeteries policy.

Mr Hagy said it was decided a more "conservative" and "sensitive" approach would be taken.

"We understand it is a sensitive issue for people who lose loved ones," he said.

"We always try to support where we can."

The council came under fire earlier this month after it sent out letters and a social media post asking residents to visit their gravesite and remove any excess memorabilia, ornaments or flowers to keep the areas "tidy and safe".

"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 read.

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


It 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 that may pose a risk to visitors and staff.

The post attracted hundreds of comments, with some residents labelling the move "disgusting" and "heartless".

Mayor Andrew Willcox has since apologised to the community, saying a meeting between councillors and the council's senior management team was held and it was acknowledged the current cemeteries policy did not meet community expectations.

Whitsunday Regional Council Mayor Andrew Willcox has apologised for hurt caused by the council’s cemeteries policy. Picture: Jordan Gilliland
Whitsunday Regional Council Mayor Andrew Willcox has apologised for hurt caused by the council’s cemeteries policy. Picture: Jordan Gilliland


Division 6 councillor Mike Brunker said they had "stuffed up as a council" but lessons had been learnt and crafting the new policy was about being sensitive and sensible.

"We do need a policy because at the end of the day when you look at any residential urban street, some people look after their own yards and some people are downright filthy in their yards," Cr Brunker said.

"To keep some sort of sense of purpose in our communities we have got to have policies.

"Now I think we have got a good balance ... a bit of common sense has prevailed."

Councillor Al Grundy and Councillor Michelle Wright also voiced their support for the new policy.

"I heard the people when they were upset and I totally agree when they were upset," Cr Wright said.

"It is not so much the policy itself, it is how we act on that."