MidCoast councillors have expressed their frustration with the length of time it was taking for restoration works of headstones at The Bight Cemetery at Wingham to begin.
Councillors who spoke at the monthly ordinary on June 30 also apologised to members of the public for the delays.
Two years later, the broken headstones, are still not repaired and are laying on the ground.
"It isn't good enough that after two years we are still having this discussion," Katheryn Smith said.
"I know we all want outcomes and we all want this to be sorted and resolved to the best possible way," Cr Smith said.
"I don't even know what else to say. It is heartbreaking . I just want to get on with it, I want it resolved like everyone."
Council has adopted a Conservation Management Plan and The Bight Cemetery Restoration Action Plan, and has liaised with heritage advisers, Cemeteries and Crematoriums NSW, and family members affected by the damage done at the cemetery in 2019.
A report tabled at the June council meeting in relation to the matter said:
Since the adoption of the (The Bight Cemetery Restoration) Action Plan and Conservation Management Plan, staff have also been working through the advice provided by Cemeteries and Crematoria NSW.
Some of that advice has opened up a can of worms, with council now having to seek legal advice on the matter of interment rights of the affected graves.
It isn't good enough that after two years we are still having this discussion.Katheryn Smith
Only the legal interment right holder can provide consent to works on monuments on graves, and the cemetery operator, in this case MidCoast Council cannot legally do anything without the approval of the interment right holder.
The report explains:
Council should note that families saying they represent the families of the deceased interment right holder or those interred may not necessarily have the legal right to provide consent to works on monumentation on a grave.
As noted above where a holder is deceased, the cemetery operator can transfer the interment right to the beneficiaries of the holder's estate or their successors, with appropriate supporting documentation. That new holder can then give permission concerning any works to memorialisation of a grave.
A cemetery operator cannot override that right. Beneficiaries of an estate may not necessarily be family members or those contacting council. ... "In order to begin to address the issue we have developed four new forms based on CCNSW templates to facilitate the transfer of internment rights.
"We have a got a minefield of legal entanglement as we seek to find the legal internment right holders," Len Roberts said.
"This is not just about The Bight Cemetery but about all cemeteries as we go forward," Cr Roberts said.
What is an interment right?
According to the Cemeteries and Crematoria Act 2013 an interment right confers not ownership but the 'interest' in a plot of land in a cemetery either in perpetuity or for a set period from the minimum of 25 years up to a maximum of 99 years. ... these rights are an asset and can be bequeathed as if they were part of the holder's personal estate according to their will. The beneficiary of these rights needs to be specified in the will otherwise confusion can arise over who owns the plot - Southern Metropolitan Cemeteries