Land purchase for new Timaru cemetery shocks nearby residents

The present Timaru cemetery has enough space to last another five years.


The present Timaru cemetery has enough space to last another five years.

Residents are shocked land near them has been purchased for Timaru’s new cemetery and claim the sale has been done hastily without them being consulted.

Emma Gilbert, who lives opposite the land bought for the new cemetery, said she believed there should have been consultation.

“It has been swept under the carpet.” she said.

The land is on the right-hand side of Claremont Rd travelling inland, just past the turn-off to Barton Rd.

“We learned through a neighbour before Christmas that it had been sold. We were shocked that valuable farm land would be turned into a cemetery.”

On Tuesday, part of the Timaru District Council’s submission to the proposed annual district plan was reported to the environmental services committee stating that the council was negotiating for the land from the owner.

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“Council is currently in negotiations with the landowner, Andrew Woods, for the acquisition of these land parcels for a new cemetery,” the submission said.

“For this reason, Parks and Recreation request that the proposed zoning of the land parcels in the proposed district plan be changed from general rural to open space. An open space zoning of the land parcels is essential for establishing the new cemetery, and reflects the zoning of the existing Timaru cemetery.”

However, on Friday the council released its agenda for a council meeting to be held Tuesday which stated “that council notes the purchase of 21.7 hectares of land at Claremont Road for a new Timaru cemetery for the sum of $2.12 million.”

An Anzac Day dawn service at Timaru cemetery.


An Anzac Day dawn service at Timaru cemetery.

“On December 6, 2022, council approved the purchase of two parcels of land at a cost of up to $3.2 million excluding GST.

“The purchase of Lot 1 DP 72967, comprising 21.7 hectares and the adjoining Lot 1 DP 339766 comprising 51 square metres at Claremont Road was settled on January 30, 2023. The purchase price for this was $2.12m.

“Because of a prior offer we were not able to purchase the other parcel of land being considered.”

Gilbert said public submissions on the annual plan closed on December 15, 2022, and asked why nearby residents were not given the chance to submit against a cemetery plan.

“Why can council change from rural to open space without talking to the district?” one nearby resident who did not wish to be named asked.

“There has been no consultation with the neighbours. I only found out about it out of the blue. It has all been done very quickly. “

This resident and Gilbert said they were concerned for public safety with a dangerous Barton Rd-Claremont Rd intersection nearby, no footpaths and the probability of large numbers coming for burials.

“What effect will chemicals being leached into the soil through embalming have on us growing vegetables and meat. Is it safe to feed my children?” Gilbert asked.

The report to Tuesday’s council meeting said consultation with neighbouring landowners would be undertaken “about future development of the land.”

“The recently purchased land is undulating and will need infrastructure and screen planting meaning that approximately half of it will be usable for burials.

“The land will also be available to form part of the strategic Timaru circumnavigation trail proposal adopted by council in 2012.”

Under the National Policy Statement for Highly Productive Land, which came into effect in October 2022, territorial authorities must avoid the inappropriate use or development of highly productive land that was not land-based primary production.

The new cemetery site was expected to provide approximately 75 years of future internments. The current Timaru cemetery in Domain Ave has an estimated remaining life of five years.