Annual Reports

Annual Report for the year ended 31 March 2003

Presented at the First Annual General Meeting of the Trust, held on Thursday 24 April 2003 at 7 p.m.


The Trustees have pleasure in reporting to you on the progress of the Trust in its first year of operation.

After many months of discussion amongst members of Dunedin North Rotary Club and Dunedin City Council Community and Recreation Services staff, the Historic Cemeteries Conservation Trust was formed as a charitable trust in January 2002. The present trustees are: Stewart Harvey (Chairman), Financial Controller, Aotea Jones Group Ltd; Ian Barber, Lecturer in Archaeology, University of Otago; Brian Williscroft QSO, Presbyterian minister; David White, Marketing Consultant, Integra Marketing; Peter Holland, Emeritus Professor, University of Otago; and Terry Hearn, Historian.

The formation of the Trust arose out of a growing concern that as families are formed, re-formed, and disappear, as people continue to move within New Zealand, and as funerary practices and customs continue to change, an increasing number of New Zealand’s cemeteries are deteriorating. Whereas in North America, Australia, and in many countries in Europe, cemetery conservation has been accepted as a community responsibility and is widely undertaken, in New Zealand both the theory and practice of cemetery conservation are largely unknown. Rather the notion endures that the care and conservation of cemeteries is more a family or private than a community or civic responsibility. It is this notion which the Trust seeks to change, to encourage communities throughout New Zealand to recognize that their cemeteries are important cultural and historical symbols and resources.

Conservation Plans

The Trust has elected to begin a nation-wide effort by having conservation plans drawn up for two of Dunedin’s oldest and neglected cemeteries, the Northern and Southern Cemeteries. Proposals for conservation plans have been secured from five consultants in Australia and New Zealand. It is intended that these plans will form models for application and implementation in cemetery conservation throughout New Zealand, with the Trust offering advice, guidance, and encouragement to local authorities, cemetery trustees, and friends of cemeteries organizations. The Trustees have discussed the applications and expect to make a final decision and announcement when funding is confirmed.

The successful tenderer will be required, with respect to each cemetery, to consider three major issues,

1. What is its historical and cultural value?

2. What is its condition? And

3. What needs to be done to conserve it?

The tenderer will also be required to prepare a public consultation programme, to ensure that the community as a whole as well as specific stakeholders are given the opportunity to participate in and contribute to the preparation of the conservation plans.

The Trust is anxious that these plans, the first of such detail for New Zealand, are prepared by an acknowledged expert in cemetery conservation practice, and we are now seeking to raise the funds to enable us to commission the Conservation Plans. It is pleasing to report that all major funders we have approached have expressed support for the concept and are considering our proposal.

Working Parties

Both Dunedin’s Northern and Southern Cemeteries have suffered over many years from neglect and vandalism, and are in danger of suffering continuing degradation in our time. In a move designed to arrest the trend we have begun recruiting working parties.

Since August 2001 the Rotary Club of Dunedin North has been involved in monthly working parties in the Northern Cemetery cutting out wilding trees and other rogue vegetation. They are now involved with regular visits to maintain the situation.

In the Southern Cemetery since September 2002 we have organised similar working parties to again cut out wilding trees and rogue vegetation. Members of Friends of Maitland Street, New Zealand Society of Genealogists Dunedin Branch, Dunedin Amenities Society, Department of Conservation, Conservation Corps, and others have supported these parties. We acknowledge valuable assistance from students of John McGlashan College, and staff of Westpac Trust Moray Place Branch.

The statistics are as follows:
Number of working parties
Northern 13
Southern 5

Number of 4-tonne truckloads taken to dump by Task Force Green
Northern 71
Southern 58

At an average attendance at each 3-hour working party of 12 persons this means that the cemeteries have benefited from 648 volunteer-hours on this work.

Cemetery Tours

We are close to finalisation of the first of a series of Cemetery Tours designed to raise people’s awareness of the significant heritage resource which is contained in an historic cemetery. Using biographical notes, which have been researched by Terry Hearn, the raconteurs Kelvin Wright, David Corballis, Brian Williscroft and Tom Brooking guided a group of Rotarians from Dunedin North Rotary Club through a trial series of selected graves. The feedback was excellent and we are now proceeding to initiate a regular series of full tours beginning in the spring. The themes of the tours will be varied from time to time to maintain the interest of the public. There will be a charge for these tours and the money raised will be used for cemetery conservation. The first tour will be based on 23 graves of prominent Dunedin citizens


We have produced two high-quality colour brochures which were very kindly printed free of charge by Hope and Sons.

One brochure explains why cemeteries should be conserved, and the other outlines to interested parties how they can conserve their own family graves. These brochures have been placed in stands in the Dunedin Public Library, Otago Settlers Museum, Department of Conservation, and Hocken Library. They have been well received and requests for them have been come from right around New Zealand.

We have in mind to produce one more with the title "Who we are and what we do", which will outline the Trust’s raison d’etre.

Dunedin City Council

All cemeteries in Dunedin are managed and maintained by the Dunedin City Council. Funds are drawn from burial fees and from ratepayers. DCC attitude is that the maintenance of individual plots and headstones (other than those managed in perpetuity) is the responsibility of the owners and their descendants. Unfortunately in the case of older historic cemeteries the families of those buried there have become scattered and fragmented so that in reality families carry out very little maintenance work. It is our contention that the community must progressively assume responsibility for conservation of historic cemeteries.

DCC have been very supportive in our formative stages and one of our first moves was to sign a Partnership Agreement with them. They continue to provide us with every assistance and their Cemeteries staff work closely with us.

Community Support

Besides the on-ground support outlined above we have received the following funds:

Dunedin North Rotary Club - grant $1,000

Dunedin North Rotary Club
Sale of firewood from tree cut down in cemetery $610

Waitaki Rotary Club - donation $100

We very much appreciate the support of the Rotary Club of Dunedin North who have been supporting us since well before our inception.


We maintain active liaison with, and receive endorsement from, The New Zealand Historic Places Trust, New Zealand Monumental Masons Association, Ministry of Culture and Heritage. We have good relationships with The National Trust of Australia, and both their Melbourne and Sydney Cemeteries Officers have been very helpful.


Working through Dr. Alexander Trapeznik of the History Department at the University of Otago we have recently arranged for one of his students to conduct research on Cemeteries in New Zealand for his M.A. thesis. It is our hope that this will be suitable for publishing as a definitive work on the topic "Cemeteries – their role in New Zealand’s Heritage".


We believe that it is essential that we introduce younger people to the historical resource which resides in our historic cemeteries. We are at the early stages of developing policy on this area but every indication is favourable. We believe that by interesting them in conservation vandalism will lessen.

Public Relations

We have taken opportunities to speak at two Heritage Seminars and to various other groups.

Friends Groups

We are keen to encourage the establishment of Friends groups for each historic cemetery. With their focus, Friends groups have a vital role to play in cemetery conservation.


It has been an exciting and memorable year. We have all enjoyed the challenges of creating something from a blank canvas.

My sincere thanks for the wise and valued counsel of my fellow Trustees during the year. Their experience has enabled us to progress all matters in a measured and thoroughly professional manner.

Stewart Harvey
24 April 2003