Community groups question 'political will' for south Canberra cemetery
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Community groups question 'political will' for south Canberra cemetery

<!--[if gte mso 9]><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]>Normal0falsefalsefalseEN-USJAX-NONE<![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 10]><![endif]--><!--StartFragment-->Community groups are questioning whether the ACT government has the "political will" to establish an urgently needed cemetery in south Canberra.

Representatives from Woden Valley and Weston Creek community councils encouraged the government to take action on the issue during a meeting of the city services committee on Wednesday.

Fiona Carrick has questioned whether there is the "political will" to establish a new cemetery in south Canberra.

Fiona Carrick has questioned whether there is the "political will" to establish a new cemetery in south Canberra.Credit:Karleen Minney

"<!--[if gte mso 9]><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]>Normal0falsefalsefalseEN-USJAX-NONE<![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 10]><![endif]--><!--StartFragment-->I don't know how long it takes to establish a cemetery, I think it comes down to political will," said Fiona Carrick, the president of the Woden Valley Community Council.<!--EndFragment-->

"<!--[if gte mso 9]><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]>Normal0falsefalsefalseEN-USJAX-NONE<![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 10]><![endif]--><!--StartFragment-->I would think it could be done fairly quickly if there was the will to do it."

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Most of Wednesday's committee meeting focused on a contentious proposal to expand the existing Woden Cemetery by converting three hectares of Eddison Park.

Both the Woden Valley and Weston Creek community councils were staunchly opposed to the Eddison Park idea.<!--EndFragment-->

"<!--[if gte mso 9]><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]>Normal0falsefalsefalseEN-USJAX-NONE<![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 10]><![endif]--><!--StartFragment-->Eddison Park is important to our community for the open green spaces it provides," Ms Carrick said.<!--EndFragment-->

"<!--[if gte mso 9]><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]>Normal0falsefalsefalseEN-USJAX-NONE<![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 10]><![endif]--><!--StartFragment-->The Woden town centre is not vibrant and we are trying to bring the activity back.

"If we did that, we would see that activity flow through Eddison Park as well."<!--EndFragment-->

Weston Creek Community Council chair Tom Anderson agreed.

"<!--[if gte mso 9]><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]>Normal0falsefalsefalseEN-USJAX-NONE<![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 10]><![endif]--><!--StartFragment-->I don't think Woden [Cemetery] should be expanded. What is happening now in the centre of Woden, they need all the green space they can get.

"<!--[if gte mso 9]><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]>Normal0falsefalsefalseEN-USJAX-NONE<![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 10]><![endif]--><!--StartFragment-->It's going to be dramatic the numbers of people in the town centre. There won't be a lot of space and that green space should be kept."

ACT Greens planning spokeswoman Caroline Le Couteur said that, with Woden Cemetery fast approaching full capacity, a new facility was needed to keep pace with population growth.

"Canberra's population is tipped to grow by up to 6,000 people each year over the next four years," she said.

"As our population ages, this issue will only become more pressing. The government must consider more appropriate sites, like the previously proposed Southern Memorial Park, as a future burial site."

A site on Mugga Lane, dubbed the Southern Memorial Park, has been reserved for a new cemetery for almost a decade.

The project had been put on the backburner in favour of expanding Woden Cemetery into Eddison Park.

However, the Woden Cemetery idea had itself been stalled by light rail plans.

Land in the centre of Woden will increase in value when the tram connects Civic to the suburban centre.

In August, City Services Minister Meegan Fitzharris said this had forced the government to rethink the proposal.

"Over the last couple of years, and particularly over the last six to seven months, the government has made a number of significant commitments to upgrades and improvements to the Woden town centre, most notably stage two of light rail, and an expansion of the Canberra Hospital," she said.

"We are currently thinking about the timing and the longer term commitment to increasing access to burial sites in particular. We note that at the moment Woden Cemetery will effectively run out of space in 2018."

In its August budget report, the ACT estimates committee called on government officials to start work immediately on alternatives to the extension to the Woden Cemetery.

The city services committee is expected to deliver its findings on the management of cemeteries in the ACT to the legislative assembly in November.

Steven Trask is a reporter for The Canberra Times

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