Lynley Bilby is a reporter for the Herald on Sunday.

Peter Fatialofa's wife upset over headstone damage: 'They were lucky I didn't give them the bill'

Peter Fatialofa died suddenly in November 2013. Photo / Getty Images
Peter Fatialofa died suddenly in November 2013. Photo / Getty Images

The wife of Samoan rugby great Peter "Fats" Fatialofa has had to use a crane to fix her late husband's gravesite damaged by vehicles using the plot as a shortcut.

Auckland Council is pleading for people to respect others at the Manukau Memorial Gardens after joyriders damaged roads doing burnouts and plots were destroyed by people driving over grassed areas.

One of the gravesites repeatedly damaged over the past 12 months belongs to the legendary former Manu Samoan captain.

He died suddenly two years ago from a heart attack aged 54.

The large granite memorial has constantly worn mud splatter from vehicles choosing to take a shortcut to other gravesites and even been toppled from its plinth.

Widow Anne Fatialofa said she was fed up with people using her late husband's plot as a driveway and wanted mourners to show more respect.

She said the grave was very important to her family but their weekly Sunday visit was often marred by grass gouged out by tyres and mud splattered all over the stone.

In the worst incident a vehicle heading to a neighbouring plot used her late husband's grave as a shortcut and knocked the large memorial slab off its stand.

"My kids were pretty upset," she said.

"I just wanted it to be fixed because I know how precious that headstone is for all of us."

Because of its weight a crane was needed to lift it back into position and reset it.

The bill came to more than $500.

Mrs Fatialofa said those responsible for upending the headstone were identified by staff but when approached said they needed to drive across the plot to reach another site because an elderly passenger could not reach it on foot.

"They were lucky I didn't give them the bill," said Mrs Fatialofa, who was disappointed they did not recognise how much distress they had caused her family.

On top of raising the matter with council staff she had taken to placing a makeshift barrier on the perimeter to deter vehicles heading across the grass.

"I even put bricks along there to stop cars driving on the grave but when you come back the following week the bricks were all gone and mud was splattered on the headstone."

Mr Fatialofa played 71 games in the front row for Auckland after debuting in 1984 and, for the following eight years, was a member of the side during one of Auckland's most dominant eras.

He was one of the first New Zealand-based players to play for Manu Samoa and captained the side in their first Rugby World Cup campaign in 1991 where they reached the quarter-finals.

- NZ Herald

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