Death sparks cemetery controversy

For residents of the Billen Cliffs community, the tragic deaths last week of two young people who grew up on their community has raised a long standing controversial issue.

Josef Hainaut, 20 and Michael O’Keeffe, 27 were killed in an ultralight aircraft accident near Tatham last Friday and now Josef’s mother Marie Hainaut wants to bury her son in the Billen Cliffs community cemetery.

While the cemetery is located on private community land, over the past few years there have been ongoing legal issues and objections raised by a couple of residents who don’t want the cemetery there at all.

“Josef’s mother, Marie would like to bury him here on Sunday,” Billen Cliffs community resident Andy Gough said. “But because one or two residents don’t like our cemetery, we have to get council approval to get him buried here and go through all of the legal rigamarole. It’s likely it will be obstructed by our absentee neighbour who lives in Canberra.”

Historically, the community has had approval for a 10 plot cemetery, and there are currently about seven people already buried there. While the community is now in the process of getting development approval to expand the cemetery to hold 100 plots, it has not yet been approved.

“It is the overwhelming will of Billen Cliffs community to have the cemetery available for residents,” Mr Gough said. “These tragic deaths have come at a bad time – the relatives of the dead boys are struggling emotionally at moment and don’t need hassles about burying their kids. It’s tragic that the first event we will have in our new hall is a funeral.”

The community is working towards submitting the relevant paperwork to allow Josef to be buried in a plot in the existing cemetery, and hopes that with support from Mayor Jenny Dowell and Lismore City Council, it will be approved quickly.


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