FLOWERS and ornaments at Pinnaroo Valley Memorial Park are regularly removed from gravesites on mowing days, with relatives responsible for replacing them.
A mourner recently contacted the Times after finding flowers left on her mother’s plaque were gone from the lawn cemetery and piled up in another area with other flowers, cherubs and ornaments.
“The flowers weren’t there, they had disappeared,” Lilly (surname withheld) said.
“I don’t think it’s right to throw memorabilia away.
“It’s really sacrilege – people have put these things on their loved ones’ graves.”
Lilly said she thought more people should be made aware of the cemetery’s mowing practice so relatives could claim and return tributes to the graves before they were thrown out.
According to the cemetery’s flower and ornament policy, available at www.mcb.wa.gov.au, a new mowing schedule started in 2012.
Metropolitan Cemeteries Board spokesman Andrew Fox said the seasonal mowing schedule resulted from the flower and ornament policy review in 2011.
“The frequency increases during spring and summer (fortnightly) and decreases during autumn/winter (monthly) when the growth of the turf slows down,” he said.
“Dates for mowing can be downloaded from our website or a flyer can be collected from the administration building.
“We also have large signs throughout the burial areas advising families of the mowing schedule.
“The families who visit the cemetery frequently have provided very positive feedback about the mowing schedule.
“They really like knowing the exact dates on which mowing will take place as it enables them to visit beforehand and remove tributes.
“Many of these families will return the day after mowing and put their tributes back in place and we welcome this.”
Mr Fox said Pinnaroo was a unique cemetery because burial plaques were flush with the ground in turfed areas with no headstones.
“Tributes left by families need to be removed to mow,” he said.
“The mowing is essential for the health of the turf; this has always been the case for more than over 30 years.
“We use large turf mowers similar to the ones used on sporting ovals and they go straight over the top of the burial plaques.”
Mr Fox said staff removed hundreds of tributes for mowing and some items, such as glass ornaments or beads, were prohibited because they posed a safety hazard during mowing.
“We need to remove them to minimise risk,” he said.
“Things such as plastic wrapping from flowers and items that are withered and weathered are disposed of.
“Items that are still in good physical condition are moved to logs that we have set up as collection points.”
Mr Fox said tributes remained at collection points for about four weeks, where families could retrieve them and return them to the graves.
“After this time unclaimed items are moved to collection bays near the administration building,” he said.
“They then remain at this collection point for several months after which point, if unclaimed, we have no choice but to dispose of them.”
Mr Fox said it was a sensitive topic and the guidelines balanced operational needs of the cemetery with respect for families.
“Families are asked to ensure that their tributes don’t encroach on neighbouring plots and that the number of tributes, generally bunches of flowers, is specified for this reason,” he said.
“Glass items, ceramics, metal objects and other such items are prohibited.
“We also ask that families help us keep Pinnaroo tidy by removing old tributes and ensuring that plastic wrapping is removed from flowers and placed in the bins.”
More space created for family area
FOLLOWING the 2011 flower and ornament policy review, the Metropolitan Cemeteries Board added a family area at Pinnaroo Valley Memorial Park.
Spokesman Andrew Fox said Zamia Court was a place where families could bury their children and it differed from other burial areas.
“We recognised that families who have lost a child often tend to place a higher volume of material and need a greater area in which to do so,” he said.
“This area has relaxed guidelines but it is important to note that the traditional Pinnaroo burial area design has been altered for this section.
“The area isn’t fully turfed and the plots are defined by a mulched garden bed.”