Auckland’s only cemetery catering for Jews running out of space

November 15, 2017 by Keren Cook
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The Waikumete cemetery located in Glen Eden, Auckland, was established in 1886 to replace the Symonds Street graveyard in central Auckland and is the only place that provides for Jewish burials.

Waikumete Cemetery

For those wanting to reserve a plot will need to get in quick – as New Zealand’s largest cemetery is fast running out of space.

Waikumete is under the governing jurisdiction of the Waitakere City Council.

At 108 hectares, Waikumete includes a section of early Jewish graves, and continues to play a rich part of New Zealand’s history.

Local politician Sandra Coney says Waikumete is a place for a large number of people who were killed during the influenza epidemic in 1918.

“There are notorious criminals, there are sports people like Bruce McLaren. There’s also three (Victorian Cross) winners, some of our most decorated soldiers, like Stanley Judson,” says Coney.

For the Auckland Jewish Community, the Chevra manage the Jewish sections of the cemetery in conjunction with the council. The Chevra is also responsible for all activities that occur in the Hebrew areas of Waikumete Cemetery. There are two sections: Section A, the old area and Section B, the newer area (from 28 November 1976 onwards).

In addition to ensuring all burials and consecrations are carried out in accordance with Jewish law (Halacha) the Chevra are also responsible for maintaining the cemetery to the high standard required by our community.

Auckland Council manager of cemeteries Catherine Moore says they are looking at two potential solutions, as Waikumete can’t be extended any further.

“There’s only about four years more capacity in this cemetery.

It’s a bit sad really because there’s such an Auckland connection with this cemetery.

We’ve had well over a 100 years of people being buried here so most people in Auckland except for newcomers, will have family members probably in this cemetery,” says Catherine Moore.

The councilor says the Auckland Council needs to be looking for another large site – and fast – in the area.

Vic Alhadeff
Chief Executive Officer NSW Jewish Board of Deputies Photo: Giselle Haber

 

In Sydney, the CEO of The New South Wales Jewish Board of Deputies Vic Alhadeff told Wendy Harmer on ABC radio: “We are fast running out of burial space in NSW. It’s not only Muslims and Jews who are running out of burial plots. There are also Christians communities with the same problem. Greek, Copt, Armenian and Russian Orthodox.

We are facing the serious issue of running out space to bury our loved one within a decade. Our main cemetery is Rookwood with a significant secondary one on the North Shore.”

Alhadeff noted: “Sufficient land needs to be allocated to accommodate the needs of multi-faith communities within the shortest possible time. The government is committed to put in plans to do so.”

He said that it takes six years from the acquisition of land to getting it ready to be used at a cemetery.

Alhadeff says he the Jewish community is working with Government. He commented: “We have been looking at land in southern and greater western Sydney but we are open to suggestions as what is available.”

The price if the land is a further issue with Alhadeff saying: “The burials must be affordable for families.The price of funerals in NSW has doubled in the last ten years.”

Henry Benjamin contributed to the article

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