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Byron Shire
February 9, 2023

Ballina council to search for natural burial ground

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The Bushland Cemetery at Goonellabah is a natural burial ground in the Lismore local government area. Photo Tree Faerie.

Ballina shire councillors have agreed to assess potential sites for a natural burial ground, just weeks after Byron shire council staff reported issues with a proposed site.

The move from independent Cr Rodney Bruem at last week’s meeting was seconded by independent Cr Stephen McCarthy.

Independent Cr Phillip Meehan was the only councillor to vote against, expressing concerns about how graves would be marked.

‘How do you know where someone is going to be buried and where they are?’ Cr Meehan asked.

Living memorials in the bush

Staff had earlier explained there would be no gravestones or plaques in the natural burial ground, where loved ones would instead by marked by plantings such as trees.

Some natural burial grounds featured trees in rows marking loved ones, with records kept of who was buried where.

But generally speaking, staff said, people could pick a spot, walk into the bush land, and say ‘that’s where I want my dad to go’ and that’s where he would be buried.

Staff appeared to support the call, noting workers in the open spaces section were ‘in a position to provide a report on this proposal if it is considered a priority for Council’.

One in four still choosing burial, says Cr Bruem

Cr Rod Bruem. Photo David Lowe.

Cr Bruem spoke at length in moving for the proposal, saying he didn’t intend for the council to incur a great deal of expenditure in time or resources but natural burial grounds were now part of the council’s ‘suite of services’.

The independent councillor said he understood around one in four people were still choosing burial over cremation and a natural burial ground was ‘a very attractive alternative to many people these days’.

Some people had particular faiths, such as Judaism, requiring burial, Cr Bruem said.

‘Also, it is something that is traditional for many indigenous peoples from many parts of the world,’ Cr Bruem said ‘and thirdly, it’s a growing interest in terms of people who are very environmentally conscious, because it’s seen as a cleaner, greener way to do it’.

Ballina to step into market gap left by Byron

Cr Bruem said there was ‘great potential’ for a natural burial ground in the Ballina Shire.

The Lismore City Council already managed a natural burial ground in Goonellabah, Cr Bruem said, that was about $1,000 cheaper to be buried in than the nearby lawn cemetery.

‘I think it’s time we looked at this,’ Cr Bruem said, ‘Byron Council already took a decision to have a look at this and they selected a site at the existing cemetery at Mullumbimby but I understand that has kind of hit a wall because the soil there is not suitable’.

Cr Bruem said there was possibly a suitable site at Rous, ‘quite a lovely spot’.

‘I often pass by the cemetery on the highway up at Alstonville and looking there I think it’s one of the most beautiful cemeteries in New South Wales,’ Cr Bruem said.

‘So we are good at these services and we need to be looking at the future and meeting the needs of our community.’

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