Blessing as Queenstown cemetery clean up set to begin

by Kim Bowden - Nov 03, 2023

A ceremony to clear the way for clean-up work to begin at the Queenstown Cemetery was held this morning.

Representatives of mana whenua, Kāi Tahu, lead the whakawātea ceremony, designed to allow contractors to work safely at the sacred site.

It's been five weeks since heavy rain brought silt, gravel, logs and other debris down the hillside behind the cemetery, burying some gravesites.

Paulette Tamati-Elliffe from Kāi Tahu speaks at this morning's whakawātea ceremony at the Queenstown Cemetery (Image: Supplied/QLDC).

Clean-up work has had to wait while tourism company Skyline stabilised the land above the site.

The council is now comfortable this has been completed to an acceptable standard.

This morning contractors in high-viz joined mana whenua and council representatives outside the cemetery for speeches, karakia and waiata.

Representatives of local churches were also in attendance.

Council spokesperson Sam White says the speeches delivered during the ceremony were "heartfelt, reflective and comforting".

It has been a distressing wait for many with loved ones buried in the cemetery.

The flooding impacted approximately one-third of the cemetery, including 207 of the cemetery’s 1,643 plots.

Yesterday, in a written statement the council provided an intended timeframe for restoration work, after earlier coming under fire from some members of the public for a perceived lack of action.

Karakia, waiata and speeches were all part of a ceremony to clear the way for contractors to start clean-up work at the cemetery (Image: Supplied/QLDC).

The intended timeframe for restoration work is as follows:

  • October to early-November: Uphill risk mitigation above cemetery.
  • Early-November to mid-November: Larger debris preparation and removal.
  • Mid-November to early-December: Further silt and smaller debris excavation.
  • Early-December to January: Detailed cleaning & monument restoration.
  • January: Target for completion of restoration.

Main image (Supplied/QLDC): People gather this morning for a blessing ceremony as clean-up contractors ready to enter a section of the Queenstown Cemetery damaged during September's state of emergency storm.

Read more: Family member saddened by sorry state of cemetery

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