Give me a grave among the gum trees

Lismore Ciry Council cemetery co-ordinator Kris Whitney with a mock up of one of the grave markers proposed for the bushland cemetery.

Lismore residents who want to help the environment will be able to do so from beyond the grave when a new cemetery opens in Goonellabah on July 1.

The Lismore Bushland Cemetery is a Lismore City Council initiative that will enable people to be buried in a natural setting with minimal disturbance to the environment.

Cemetery co-odinator, Kris Whitney, said the seven-hectare block between the existing Memorial Gardens and Tucki Tucki Creek was donated to Council for use as a cemetery a number of years ago.

However, environmental laws prevented us from removing the existing woodland vegetation,

Mr Whitney said. Instead we decided the best way to use the land was to introduce green funerals.

Mr Whitney said green funerals were a growing trend worldwide and involved adhering to a set of international environmental protocols.

These include a ban on the use of non-biodegradable materials or toxic substances.

We will only permit coffins made from locally-grown plantation timbers, cardboard, wicker and similar materials, Mr Whitney said. Embalmed bodies will not be allowed because the process involves the use of formaldehyde.

There will be a choice of a small plaque mounted on a boulder from a local quarry, or an unmarked grave recorded as a map reference.

No burials will be permitted close to trees or the existing watercourse and the planting of memorial vegetation will not be permitted.

Existing flora on the site includes red gums and tallowwoods, while fauna includes koalas, wallabies, possums and the little bent-wing bat.

We believe the setting will appeal to people seeking a less formal funeral as well as those concerned about the environmental impact of funerals, Mr Whitney said.

Council currently uses around $80,000 worth of LPG to carry out between 650 and 700 cremations a year.

But in terms of carbon footprints its just as expensive for us to maintain conventional graves and surrounds in the memorial gardens.

Apart from occasional slashing, we will maintain the new cemetery in its existing state and only allow natural regeneration.

However, Council has created a $40,000 landscaping plan for the development of an existing clearing as a site for memorial ceremonies, low impact pathways through the bushland, and rehabilitation of the watercourse.

Those seeking a more conventional funeral need not be concerned about the new development.

While Sydney councils are experiencing a crisis in space when it comes to cemeteries, Mr Whitney can see no such problem arising here.

Apart from the Goonellabah site there are five other cemeteries within the Lismore City Council area, at Nimbin, Bexhill, Tucki Tucki, Alphadale and Dunoon, he said.

By using them, and adjoining council land, we can accommodate funerals for the next 200 years.

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