The Wollongong City Council are seeking input in relation to Council’s future management of the Waterfall General (Garrawarra) Cemetery Site north of Helensburgh.
As part of the exhibition, WCCouncil has prepared a documentary film of the site “Not Forgotten: The Story of Waterfall General Cemetery”. This film, and a range of other documents and materials, including a discussion paper, a conservation management plan, and a copy of the original burial register, can be viewed on Council’s website via the following link. I encourage you to visit the website, view the film, and to have your say on Council’s future decision making, and management of this important historic site.
Helensburgh Historical Society and Helensburgh Landcare Group recently submitted their views to the WCC.
At the special meeting on 4th November, the Helensburgh Historical Society discussed what could be done to preserve the historical value of the cemetery at Garrawarra Hospital (Waterfall General Cemetery). Please find attached our submission to Wollongong City Council for your information and comment.
Helensburgh Historical Society [PDF]
5 November 2013
Wollongong City Council
Locked Bag 8821
WOLLONGONG DC NSW 2500
RE: WATERFALL GENERAL (GARRAWARRA) CEMETERY
The Helensburgh District Historical Society at a special meeting held on Monday 4 November strongly supported the heritage value of the site and the need to protect the cemetery from further deterioration in the Local, State and National interest, being unique in its historical content. We acknowledged that Council has already in their discussion papers expressed the importance of the heritage value contained within the cemetery and the need to protect it for the future.
The Society at this stage of the consultation process supports council’s proposal that either Local or State Governments preserve what remains of the cemetery and gives a higher level of heritage classification. We also consider that the heritage classification of the old hospital buildings and surrounding auxiliary buildings being currently under heritage protection by the State should amalgamate the cemetery from the same period.
The Society over the last several years has received numerous Waterfall (Garrawarra) Cemetery enquiries. Now with the Burial Registers we can give relatives the information they are asking for, but it only gives them partial closure because the cemetery is closed to the public. Relatives in many cases need to visit where their loved ones are buried, and at the moment we cannot give them that privilege. It is important that council considers that at some stage during the next process of consultation relatives are given assurance that at some period they will be able to visit the site, if not to the grave, but to a memorial in the cemetery.
In response to section 4.0 Key Issues and Options contained in the discussion paper; we feel that until the issue of ownership, management and zoning of the cemetery is resolved we cannot give our considered options to this section in full, only that we support the need that something has to be done to stop further problems associated with the cemetery as outlined in the discussion paper. In what form this takes is also dictated by the above issue of ownership, management and zoning.
4.1 Future Custodianship still needs to be resolved before council can move forward with all the options set out in the discussion paper.
4.2 The issue of Management Strategies is the most controversial, and that is what to do with the site, and again this is up to who will be the future custodians and who will be the best custodians to look after the heritage integrity of the cemetery.
4.3 Access to the cemetery is another important step, being land-locked by various government departments, and again cannot be resolved until custodianship is sorted.
4.4 The issue of Planning and Land Use Zoning has in itself ramifications to how the site can be managed by the regularity zoning or rezoning of the site, and we consider the zoning must give an amount of flexibility to be able to manage the site.
4.5 Heritage Listing is a necessity as we discussed in our earlier paragraphs and supported by council’s reports. We ask council to recommend that the Cemetery, along with the former Waterfall State Sanatorium site, be included in the State Heritage Register. We consider that Council should prepare a nomination for listing on the State Heritage Register as set out in the discussion paper as soon as possible as this is an important step in planning the future for the cemetery.
We understand fully that council has now found itself custodianship of a very unique historic cemetery site that will require a lot of planning and finances. With this in mind Council has accepted its responsibility to resolve the issues it is faced with. Importantly to Council’s credit, it could also be seen as setting a precedent for the future management of historic cemeteries that have been left in the same disrepair as the Waterfall (Garrawarra) Cemetery, not only local but possibly state wide.
In closing, the society would like to participate in the ongoing process of community consultations and have input into a “Friends Group” or “Cemetery Conservation Group” within the society’s limited resources available at the time.
Helensburgh District Historical Society
Helensburgh and District Landcare Group [PDF]
Helensburgh and District
The General Manager
Wollongong City Council
Locked Bag 8821
13 November 2013
Subject: Waterfall General (Garrawarra) Cemetery
I am writing on behalf of Helensburgh and District Landcare to lodge our strong support for the heritage
listing and protection of the Waterfall General (Garrawarra) Cemetery.
The cemetery and the Garrawarra Centre for Aged Care lie inside a small area of bushland between the Princes Highway and the F6 Freeway. Helensburgh Landcare has had a long term interest in this land which is bounded on the eastern side of the freeway by the Garawarra State Conservation Area and on the western side of the Princes Highway, the Woronora Special Area (Woronora Dam Catchment) and the Heathcote National Park. Our group actively worked with the former Hacking River Catchment Committee in addressing the illegal dumping of household waste and hazardous material on that part of which traverses the area in question. We conducted clean-ups in the area and were largely responsible for the gating and closure of Cawley Road.
Several years ago, we proposed that this small parcel of land, excluding the Garrawarra Centre for Aged Care, should be added to the Garawarra State Conservation Area and managed by the National Parks and Wildlife Service. At the time, we believed that the cemetery was under the control of Department of Crown Lands, but in recent years learnt that Wollongong Council is the responsible authority. Our proposal consisted of two objectives, the first being the management of the bushland as a wildlife corridor to the Garawarra State Conservation Area, and the second, the protection and management of the cemetery as an historically important site. The wildlife corridor concept involved the eco-scaping of the bridge over the freeway to become a safe transit point for reptiles and mammals. For various reasons, this proposal met with obstacles, the most notable being associated with the cemetery. About eighteen months ago, we canvassed the possibility of establishing the area as an Environment and Heritage Protection Reserve. This is not a new concept to us as we were successful in having such a reserve established adjacent to Helensburgh Railway Station.
We appreciate that Council’s concern is with the future of the cemetery, however, we believe there is still a substantial case to be made for a broader approach to be taken in regards to the cemetery and the surrounding bushland. We still support the establishment of an Environment and Heritage Protection Reserve, administered by the National Parks and Wildlife Service or Department of Crown Lands or Wollongong Council. With this stated as a medium to long term objective, we wish to comment on the immediate issue, the management of Waterfall General (Garrawarra) Cemetery.
Helensburgh Landcare believes the cemetery and sanatorium sites have significant State heritage value and endorses the nomination of the Waterfall General Cemetery and Waterfall State Sanatorium sites to the
State Heritage Register as a combined listing.
We note that the past history of the cemetery is entirely associated with the sanatorium. It was not a general cemetery servicing the community at large. The cemetery was established by the State Government and used solely by the State Government when an active cemetery. Council never managed it as an active cemetery, so logically the State Government should be asked to manage what was its in the first place. For reasons outlined above, we believe the cemetery and the bushland ‘spit’ should be seen as one entity, established as an Environment and Heritage Protection Reserve and administered by the NSW State Government. Assuming this may be difficult to achieve in the short term or at all, we would support the management of the cemetery as a ‘bush cemetery’ by Wollongong Council.
Irrespective of who manages the cemetery, steps should be taken as soon as possible to remove debris from the site and protect graves and headstones from further damage by vegetation, particularly trees. We completely reject a ‘no maintenance’ approach to the cemetery as eventually all the surviving headstones, etc. would be ‘consumed by nature’.
The question of public access is a difficult one to address. We favour minimal pedestrian access and only on prescribed open days where a guide should be in attendance. We believe there is a significant risk in any other form of access, particularly when there is no indication of the potential public interest in visiting the cemetery. With just over 2,000 burials in the cemetery and only a small number of identifiable headstones, it would appear reasonable to assume there could be early significant public interest in visitation and then a decline to a small number of visitors per annum. If this is seen as a likely outcome, expenditure on roads and parking would be, in our view, unjustifiable.
There is a significant historical story to be told about the sanatorium and the cemetery. We urge Council to not only have the details of those buried at the cemetery made available on the internet, but also include a historical narrative about the sanatorium, the cemetery and people of note. It would appear appropriate to install an interpretative feature at the entrance to the cemetery, ideally with the names of those buried there.
In regards to a ‘Friends of the Cemetery Group’ or ‘Cemetery Conservation Group’, we feel this would be desirable, but feel that such a group might lose its momentum rather quickly and just fade away. It is worth a try, but we think a better solution lies in formalised management.
Finally, Helensburgh Landcare would be happy to provide further input and views on the future of the