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Byron Shire
June 24, 2024

Natural burial site found unsuitable

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Natural burial ground at Vallances Road a no-go Photo supplied.

The long-standing plan to create a natural burial ground for locals who want to be buried sustainably has hit a major hurdle, with the site favoured for this use found to be completely unsuitable.

For decades locals have been talking about having a place where people can be laid to rest without the serious ecological impacts that come with conventional burial and cremation. A picturesque site on Vallances Road in Mullumbimby had been earmarked for this purpose, with locals, councillors and staff pouring hours into planning and preparation.

But a detailed investigation of the site by Council staff has found that it has multiple serious issues that have ultimately proved fatal.

Two other sites, at the Clunes and Mullumbimby cemeteries, are now being considered to host the burial ground.

Disappointed mayor

‘I’m very disappointed that it’s not going to go ahead, but the reality is that it’s just not suitable,’ Mayor Michael Lyon told last week’s Council meeting. 

‘While it had the visual appeal, on pretty much every other level that we investigated, it wasn’t great.’

In their report on the Vallances Road site, Council staff found it to be ‘vastly flood prone’.

They also discovered that the soil there contained heavy clays that would not have allowed bodies to decompose quickly, and would have required significant time and carbon-burning energy to dig up.

Staff found that digging graves and revegetating the Vallances Road site would have required four-to-five times the amount of energy needed.

There were also issues around the small size of the available land at Vallances Road for natural burial that meant it would have provided only a finite benefit for the community.

Finally, the site was constrained by access issues, with the entrance currently located at a road safety black spot.

‘In light of this information, Clunes is recommended as the more suitable site for the purpose, but it is acknowledged that it’s at the boundary/limits of the Byron Shire,’ Council staff said.

‘Therefore, staff should investigate the viability of the Clunes and Mullumbimby cemeteries to allocate a section for natural burials, potentially at both locations.’

The community effort to create a natural burial ground in the Shire goes back more than two decades, driven, in large part, by the desire to avoid the environmental impacts of conventional burial and cremation.

These impacts include the use of carcinogenic chemicals during the embalming process, and the toxic glues and lacquers used in coffins.

Cremation releases about 160kg of carbon into the atmosphere, the majority from burning the coffin, according to a report from the South Australian Centennial Park Authority. While plans for a natural burial ground go back decades, Cr Lyon put a motion before Council in 2019, which proposed looking for a suitable parcel of Council or privately owned land.

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  1. ” significant time and carbon-burning energy to dig up.”….. Argh, it’s a grave ,…. these people have all the time in the world !
    What in the name of hell does ” four-to-five times the amount of energy needed.” mean ? To my mind it requires exactly the amount of energy required !
    Dead people don’t require much more than a hole in the ground and a long rest.
    Cheers, G”)

  2. There are more toxic chemicals used in building the average house along with incredible wastage.
    A good idea but the savings, whatever they are seen to be, are so minimal that they are insignificant.
    It would seem that it is the personal barrow being pushed by someone with something to gain from it.
    It won’t save the environment. Look more closely at many other areas.
    The amount of old asbestos roofing/cladding all over the east coast of Australia, and especially in coastal towns like Brunswick, Ballina and the Bay that is blown everywhere in windy weather that no one seems to notice or care about.
    A few coffins underground are a meaningless threat by comparison.


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