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Ban on fresh flowers at cemeteries overturned after public outcry

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The Whitsunday Regional Council overturns a policy banning fresh flowers on graveyards from a month after interment after admitting the decision was insensitive.

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The Whitsunday Regional Council has voted to overturn a policy that banned fresh flowers on graveyards from a month after interment.

It comes just two weeks after the council faced criticism over a Facebook post telling residents about the policy, which also banned ornaments on graves and stipulated any artificial flowers must be placed in a vase purchased from council.

Official letters were also sent to residents about the policy.

Mayor Andrew Willcox told a council meeting on Wednesday the policy had created angst in the community.

“I have apologised on many occasions for that,” he said.

“We have to have a policy.

“It’s not that we want to be difficult, we have to have a policy to keep cemeteries … a nice environment.”

The new policy, which was passed unanimously by councillors at the meeting, allows for real flowers, including wreaths, to be placed on graves after the first month of interment.

After the second month, flowers can only be placed on either side of the headstone or monument.

Families will also be able to provide their own vase, as long as it is concrete, granite or another durable material and does not exceed 300mm in height.

Other ornaments are also now allowed, as long as they are secure and do not encroach on other graves.

Councillor Mike Brunker said this new policy showed that “common sense has prevailed”.

“I think we’ve got a good balance now,” he said.

“People were upset, and rightfully so.

“We have addressed some of the areas that might have been insensitive.”

The council’s CEO, Rod Ferguson, said the previous policy did not meet community expectations.

“This is one of the more relaxed policies I believe in regards to operations of cemeteries,” Mr Ferguson said.

“[Council has] learnt some lessons out of it and are bringing a range of policies back to council in the future to review to make sure our policies are what councillors expect.”

Ross Newell, whose son’s ashes rest at the Bowen Cemetery, said the changes were a relief.

“The number of people that I’ve spoken to feel exactly the same, particularly when you get into commemorative periods like anniversaries and birthdays,” he said.

“It puts my mind at rest and certainly the broader community’s mind at rest as well.”

Mr Newell, who is also the president of the Whitsunday Regional Residents Association, said the changes were what he expected.

“It’s been dealt with with a great deal of sensitivity this time, and I commend council for the way they’ve handled it,” he said.

– ABC / Tobi Loftus

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