MidCoast Council to prepare policy for assessment and control of risk associated with monuments

Bight Cemetery. Photo supplied
Bight Cemetery. Photo supplied

In the wake of the damaged caused at Wingham's Bight Cemetery last year, MidCoast Council is preparing a draft policy for the assessment and control of risk associated with monuments.

The draft policy should be ready in April 2020.

Council's general manager, Adrian Panuccio presented a report to council's December 19 meeting the Bight Cemetery investigation into the laying down of headstones at The Bight Cemetery in July. Council appointed Peel HR in August 2019 to undertake an investigation.

Mr Panuccio said the purpose of engaging Peel HR was to carry out a fact finding investigation and to make recommendations relating to improvements and processes.

"The work undertaken at The Bight Cemetery were not appropriately carried out," the general manager stated in his report.

"Specifically, the work was not diligently planned, and did not adequately address stakeholder engagement. As a consequence, it is acknowledged that the council incorrectly laid down a significant number of headstones on July 19 and 22, 2019.

Mr Panuccio said the council does not have its own policy framework for the assessment and control of risks associated with monuments. "While for MidCoast, the current guiding document is the Catholic Cemeteries Memorial Safety Policy, the work carried out at The Bight Cemetery failed to have adequate regard to that policy.

"It remains unclear as to the total number of monuments that were incorrectly laid down by council, though it is understood that 49 monuments were laid down on July 19. Eleven larger monuments previously identified as posing a safety risk were laid down with the assistance of a small crane on July 22.

"A number of other monuments were damaged previously and subsequent to council undertaking the laying down of monuments at The Bight Cemetery in July 2019.

"As indicated in the draft The Bight Cemetery Restoration Plan, reported to the council meeting on November 27, an investigation into the condition of the headstones identified by the council and the community has confirmed that 67 headstones are in need of repair.

"Council has undertaken to restore those headstones at The Bight Cemetery, whether the damage occurred as a result of council actions in July 2019 or as a result of damage caused by storm activity in December 2018," Mr Panuccio said.