Graves at the Foxton Cemetery in Avenue Rd have been submerged under water, leaving family members frustrated at the apparent lack of more prompt action.

Water had submerged about 20 graves around the rose garden and some children's graves at the western end of the cemetery near the entrance for about a week earlier this month.

Water had been pumped away in August and again last Thursday, however, the water levels were back up again after the latest deluge at the weekend.

Levin man Kevin Dawson has visited his wife's gravesite at least twice a month for the past 15 years, even installing a seat so he could sit there.


Last Wednesday was the anniversary of his wife's death but Mr Dawson was unable to get near the area due to the excessive ponding.

He said the last time he was able to get near his wife's grave was Mother's Day this year.

"Even then I needed to wear gumboots."

He estimated the latest ponding had been up to 30cm at one point and was about 20cm in places when the above photo was taken last Monday.

"I understand there has been an excessive rainfall but council could have pumped it away before now."

He believed the ponding was exacerbated by a new roadway installed as part of the cemetery extension and wondered why there had been no drainage system installed at the start of the extension project.

Told by council there was nothing they could do while it continued to rain, Mr Dawson said, "We're talking about our loved ones here."

The rose garden and grave area after the water had been pumped away last Thursday.
The rose garden and grave area after the water had been pumped away last Thursday.

Levin resident Lynette Shanks, who has family members buried at Foxton Cemetery, was less than impressed with answers she had received from council.

"They said they had a solution but it was very expensive.

"When I said why couldn't they get someone down to pump the water away today [on a sunny day], I was asked did I realise how hard it was to get contractors quickly.

"Surely it's a health and safety issue?"

Ms Shanks was worried her family would not be able to access the cemetery to bury her aunt in November, next to her husband whose grave was one of those under water.

She was advised by a council staff member that contractors would keep pumping away any water after it rained until the water table dropped sufficiently for work to be carried out.

"Can you imagine what the ground could be like to walk on for my mum who is 86 and uses a walker and for her other sister who uses a wheelchair?

"They shouldn't have to see the graveside in that state."

Horowhenua District Council property and parks manager Arthur Nelson said the area concerned is the lowest point on Foxton Cemetery and had always ponded, exacerbated by the increased rainfall over past weeks, almost a 50 per cent increase on last year's rainfall, and a 141 per cent increase from 2104.

Initial pumping of water at the end of August removed 12,000 litres (12m3) and it was anticipated volumes from last Thursday's pumping would be consistent with this.

"Once the groundwater is removed an assessment of the state of the graves and plaques will be made," he said.

The initial option being considered to resolve the ponding issue is a soakaway similar to the one installed adjacent to Hickford Rd which has led to good results, said Mr Nelson.

It would be undertaken once the area had dried out sufficiently.

"If this doesn't resolve the issue other options will be considered."

He said a temporary walkway was unlikely to resolve the issue and council's contractor had been instructed to continue pumping away water as necessary in the meantime.

Mr Nelson said he would be surprised if HDC staff had responded the way they did to Ms Shanks but if they did HDC apologised for any distress caused and would conduct an internal investigation into the alleged comments.

"We will work with families and funeral directors to facilitate business as usual until this issue is resolved," he said.

Harvey Bowler funeral director Michael Hill said there would be very little damage if any to the granite plaques.

"Granite is one of the toughest materials and all that could happen is some deterioration of the gilding.

"It is just distressing for the families and I know we've got unhappy families asking the same questions."

Mr Hill said cemeteries around the country are experiencing similar issues because of the excessive rainfall over the past months.

The Foxton Cemetery western extension area was vested by the Crown in Foxton Borough Council in 1899 as a site for a cemetery.

The area is 10,000 square metres in size, and is an area of the cemetery to be developed to allow for the future growth required for the Foxton and Foxton Beach communities.