There is grave business afoot in Pukerau as a plot to make over the cemetery gains momentum.
The $65,000 project is being undertaken by the Pukerau Cemetery Support group which was formed in 2016.
The cemetery was run by a trust from 1880 to 2001 when the Gore District Council took over its management.
Group secretary Margaret Pullar said the aim of the group was to make the cemetery a historic centre of the district.
“The Kaiwera, Pukerau, Arthurton, Benio, Otikerama [district] has a fascinating history.
“It’s also honouring our pioneers of the district,” Mrs Pullar said.
The development involves replacing 20 derelict wooden named crosses with small granite plaques, installing three outdoor seats, a shelter-sanctuary and the planting of trees and shrubs around the 3.22ha site.
The shelter would be 3.5m wide and 1.5m deep with the roof extending another half-metre.
“[It will be] fully lined to prevent birds attempting to build nests inside and accumulation of leaves and twigs, and with a water tank for hand-washing and flowers.”
Bricks donated by the former Norton Brickworks would form the half-metre base of the walls.
“Norton Brickworks is very much part of Pukerau and been an important industry for the whole of Eastern Southland and so we’re really incredibly grateful they have donated the bricks to us.”
Inside the shelter would be display boards listing the 200 people who had served in the Boer War, the world wars and other conflicts up to the Vietnam War, as well as a map of the cemetery and a history of the area.
“Also, we are going to have information about the closed Otaraia Cemetery that was out at Kaiwera.”
It was expected the work on the shelter would start soon and the take about 12 months. Work to clean up the returned servicemen’s graves started last year before Anzac Day and group member Catherine Pullar continued until it was finished.
“They are now attractive, completely clean and [the gravestones] readable.”
The council would also extend the gravelled area at the cemetery gates.
Many people had volunteered time or materials to help with the project.
“That’s the sort of community Pukerau Kaiwera is.”
Funding from the Kaiwera Community Trust kick-started the project and the Mataura Licensing Trust and Gore Pakeke Lions Club had also made significant contributions. The group still needed about $20,000 more to complete the project.
Gore Mayor Tracy Hicks said he was very encouraged with the initiative of the group to develop the cemetery.
“They are really making a difference and I’m sure the community will appreciate the work that is going on and it will create a legacy for the future,” Mr Hicks said.
The project was an example of what could be achieved when communities took responsibility for projects.