Volunteering . . . Pukerau Cemetery Support Group Trust members Lynne Sharp (left) and Catherine Pullar tidy up the cemetery at a recent working bee. A celebration to mark the makeover of the cemetery will be held on November 6. PHOTO: MARGARET PULLAR

Former New Zealand prime minister Jenny Shipley will be one of the guests to celebrate the makeover of the Pukerau Cemetery next month.

Her father, the late Len Robson, was a Pukerau Presbyterian Church minister.

Southland MP Joseph Mooney will also attend.

For the past six years, the Pukerau Cemetery Support Group Trust has been overseeing a $65,000 upgrade of the facilities and grounds at the cemetery.

Trust secretary Margaret Pullar said the group had achieved almost all the goals it had set.

‘‘Namely, to establish an attractive, peaceful, historical centre honouring the district’s pioneers and all those subsequently buried there.’’

The project included removing trees, building a kiosk with information panels and erecting a new fence around the Catholic section of the cemetery.

The people buried in 43 unmarked graves in the area have been identified and memorial stones installed.

In the process of the project, trust members had discovered ‘‘some amazing stories’’, Mrs Pullar said.

Thanks to Gore District Historical Society member Avis McDonald, the group had unearthed a missing plan for the cemetery drawn up when it was established in 1880.

‘‘Avis not only knew the plan existed, she knew exactly where it was.’’

More than 280 people have been buried in the 3.22ha cemetery since 1880.

The cemetery comprises a Protestant section, where there is also a berm set aside for Muslim burials, and a smaller Catholic block across a paddock.

The group was in touch with 250 contacts who had an interest in the cemetery and it was likely many of those would attend the celebration, some from as far away as Australia, she said.

‘‘Flags of all countries burials originated from will be flown from poles attached to the lower fence.’’

Pukerau School pupils have also been involved in the project and have painted stones for the graves of people who had served their country in war.

The public are invited to attend the celebration, which will start at 1pm at the Catholic block.

At 1.30pm, the group will travel to the Protestant block, where Mrs Shipley will unveil the kiosk.

The celebration will continue at the Pukerau Community Centre, where afternoon tea will be served.

The Pukerau Cemetery upgrade celebration will be held on November 6 starting at 1pm at the Catholic section of the cemetery, which is in South St, Pukerau.