Native vegetation clearing at Drakesbrook Cemetery approved by Shire as part of potential expansion plans

Headshot of Sean Van Der Wielen
Sean Van Der WielenHarvey-Waroona Reporter
The Drakesbrook Public Cemetery in Waroona.
Camera IconThe Drakesbrook Public Cemetery in Waroona. Credit: Sean Van Der Wielen/Harvey-Waroona Reporter

A Peel council will seek to expand its cemetery into a nearby park and clear up to half of all vegetation on the site as it battles with a plot “deficit”.

The Shire of Waroona has been looking at ways to expand the Drakesbrook Public Cemetery, with council documents noting only 126 of the site’s 326 vacant plots are in cleared areas.

However, one councillor was against plans to apply to clear the vegetation after describing the move as “premature”.

The clearing proposal had come up as a result of a flora and flora survey conducted in September last year, which concluded one-third of the native vegetation at the site was in “completely degraded” condition, with an additional third identified as “degraded”.

Shire staff had requested approval from councillors to lodge a native vegetation clearing permit with the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation to clear the “completely degraded” and “degraded” vegetation to expand the number of available burial plots within the site.

The request had originally been put to councillors at the February meeting, but was delayed after deputy Shire president Naomi Purcell successfully argued there was insufficient information in the officer’s report.

She again raised concerns during the March 28 meeting, saying the expansion of plots on the eastern side of the cemetery would not help high-demand areas including the Roman Catholic burial section.

Cr Purcell said not all of the areas requested to be cleared by the Shire would likely be needed.

“I think it is premature to take those areas to DWER for approval,” she said.

Cr John Mason said the Shire would likely struggle with capacity unless new plots were made available.

“In the not too distant future, we will have a (plot) deficit,” he said.

Speaking after the meeting, Shire president Mike Walmsley said he expected it to take a minimum of 18 months before any potential clearing could occur.

“We need to get those wheels in motion now and we will make sure it is sensitively done,” he said.

“We will do as much community consultation with the plans as we can do.”

Proposals to investigate the possibility of expanding the cemetery site into Hawksley Park and another neighbouring reserve were also put to the council, alongside plans to improve the cemetery carpark area.

A voluntary working group is now likely to be set up to work through the expansion project with community members, with a report to come to the council before works commence.

All present councillors except Cr Purcell voted for the proposals.

No threatened or endangered flora species were found in the cemetery grounds, although one declared pest plant was identified as part of the flora and fauna survey.

Fourteen fauna species were observed or are believed to frequent the cemetery site.

Plans for the expansion of the cemetery date back to 2020, when the council voted to buy a property on Mitchell Avenue for $85,000.

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