Cemeteries bylaw frustrates stonemason



A Hastings stonemason has been left frustrated and a family upset after being told the headstone they had planned to install at the Western Hills Cemetery would not be permitted as it was made from the wrong stone.

"I was told it did not meet the bylaws," stonemason Stephan Roess of A Touch of Stone said.

At issue was the use of New Zealand basalt, which he was told did not meet Napier City Council bylaws.

The bylaws, he said, favoured a form of Chinese imported granite instead.

"If you are going to put a headstone up you have to apply for a permit. They [councils] have a bylaw which dictates measurements and materials."

Mr Roess said he had no issue with that.

He had used basalt, which he said was only marginally softer than granite, in the past, along with even softer marble.

"But this time I was declined because everything has to be done in granite. They said granite was the only material durable enough to go in a cemetery."

The designs he submitted to the council were within the required dimensions but were declined due to the material.

Two of his clients had been affected, he said.

One told him they were so annoyed they believed it would be easier to have the coffin of their loved one removed from the Western Hills Cemetery and taken for reburial in Hastings.

The second family were upset as the headstone had been planned by their mother, who now lives in Thames, for the gravesite of her partner who was buried at Western Hills last October. She wanted to use New Zealand stone (basalt).

"I have had no such problems with the Hastings District Council," Mr Roess said.

He believed the council had changed the bylaws within the past year.

Napier parks and reserves manager Tony Billing said the council's cemeteries bylaws had been in place since May 2008.

They state that headstones and monuments be made of granite "or such suitable material as the reserves asset manager may from time to time approve".

The individual cemetery site details all stated granite, or in some cases plaster-coated concrete.

The materials Mr Roess wanted to use did not meet the criteria.

Mr Billing said he carefully explained the situation to Mr Roess and was left with the impression he understood.

"It is clearly explained on the bylaws website and all monumental masons and funeral directors are aware of it."

The Hastings District Council cemetery bylaws, introduced in October 2007, are less stringent, stating: "All headstones or other monuments shall be of approved design and materials, and constructed to the satisfaction of the sexton."

- Hawkes Bay Today

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