Key time in cemetery gates issue

By Andrew Bonallack

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I've always had a small fascination with this debate on the gates. I confess it's a colossal "so what" issue for me.
I've always had a small fascination with this debate on the gates. I confess it's a colossal "so what" issue for me.

The issue of Masterton's Archer St cemetery gates appears to be approaching a watershed moment, with some strong submissions on the matter now tabled for the council's consideration.

I've always had a small fascination with this debate on the gates. I confess it's a colossal "so what" issue for me. It seems like an example of generational angst, a debate that revolves largely around aesthetics, sentimentality and historical niceties, but only the angst of a dedicated minority. The bulk of Masterton's population, I would suspect, don't care.

I've been involved in several contradictory walks through the area. I'm not clear on why the change happened, but the arguments on why it's wrong - being forced to travel down a side road - doesn't seem like a hardship. Personally, the original old drive looks equally unwieldy for vehicle movement, and the revised entrance seems extremely sensible, lending a certain peace to the surroundings, and making it much safer to walk there. Most historic cemeteries are all about walking, not driving - if you visit Wellington, you'll find that out pretty fast.

Nonetheless, it is often the dedicated minority who can carry the day. The situation never occurs when a council receives 100 submissions in anger, but also gets 10,000 submissions from those who say: "Yeah, we're fine, thanks." The council could argue that a small number of negative submissions means that, in carrying out a certain action (like turning the Archer St entrance into a pedestrian access), they have correctly judged the will of the majority. And I certainly don't believe councils - and their submission process - should be hijacked. Councils are supposed to make de facto decisions on our behalf.

But perhaps the council has not correctly judged the will - and the needs - of those who are truly invested in that cemetery. And perhaps it is my failure to understand - as an import to Wairarapa - what being connected with your surroundings is all about. I can think of some locations where it would have mattered to me if something had changed, even if most others did not.

So, while I don't remotely agree with the angst, I respect there are those who are powerfully connected to that cemetery. And, as New Zealand history has demonstrated numerous times, connection to land is a powerful driver.

- WAIRARAPA TIMES-AGE

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