17 January 2023

Locals upset after sheep flock into Yass cemetery

| Sally Hopman
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Sheep in cemetery

Sheep moved into Yass cemetery, to the distress of families of those buried there, when a fence from an adjacent property came down during the recent floods. Photo: Coralee Hazelgrove.

A mother who buried her son only months ago at the Yass cemetery said she was reduced to tears when she discovered roses and other plants she had placed next to his grave had been destroyed by sheep.

Coralee Hazelgrove, who was born and bred in Yass, said she visited her son’s grave daily and had been horrified to see sheep eating the plants and flowers she regularly left on the site in her son’s memory.

“It wasn’t only me who has been upset by this,” she said. “Other people who come up here, from my family and other local families because it’s a resting place for so many of our loved ones.”

Ms Hazelgrove took photographs of the sheep eating grass and other plants around her son’s grave.

“It’s not like roses only cost $5; you’d better add a zero to that,” she said.

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Ms Hazelgrove said her son Nathan, 21, died on 20 May last year. His grave is permanently decorated with plants, flowers and other items he loved.

On social media, other locals have reported seeing sheep eating the flowers planted by loved ones and kicking over vases.

“Both my parents are at the Yass cemetery,” one woman posted. “I can’t get there now due to disability. It breaks my heart to know that the council is not looking after the cemetery, especially when family can’t get there.

“Today would have been my dad’s birthday,” she wrote on Monday. “It would be nice not to have bloody sheep munching around his grave – so disrespectful and hurtful.”

There were also complaints that when the cemetery was mown or whipper-snipped, broken glass was left around the area, the remains of smashed vases and jars on graves.

Woman sitting beside gravestone.

Coralee Hazelgrove sits by the gravestone of her son Nathan whom she buried in May last year. He was 21. Photo: Supplied.

General manager of Yass Valley Council, Chris Berry said on Tuesday that council officers were sent to the site as soon as reports of the sheep came in. He said he believed the sheep got through a neighbouring fence which had been damaged during the recent heavy rain in Yass.

“The sheep are now in a secure paddock,” Mr Berry said. “As soon as we heard about the sheep in there, our guys rounded them up with the help of the property owner and secured them in a paddock while the fence is being fixed.

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“With such a sensitive place as a cemetery, our aim was to deal with this as quickly as possible.”

He attributed the damaged fence to the recent flooding in Yass.

“Not only has all that water played havoc on our roads with potholes, it has also damaged a lot of fences,” he said.

“We understand it can be distressing for people when livestock get in somewhere like this. But it is difficult with animals because for livestock, the grass always seems to be greener on the other side and they will always push up against a fence.”

Mr Berry said dealing with the aftermath of the 2022 floods had been a challenging time, “but this is something we have worked to sort out quickly”.

Yass Valley Mayor Allan McGrath, who visited the cemetery on Monday to investigate, apologised via social media yesterday “for the distress caused to families with loved ones buried in the cemetery”.

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