Locals concerned with state of grass at Pine Lodge Cemetery

By Liz Mellino

Known for being the largest lawn cemetery within Greater Shepparton, you would expect the Pine Lodge Cemetery to have a carpet of luscious green grass.

However one local family has questioned the current state of the cemetery, describing the state of the lawn as merely "cracked dirt".

Judy Pattison, Lucy Scott and Maree Beanham have been visiting the cemetery for many years, with each having family members buried at the Shepparton East site.

While they admit the cemetery used to be home to beautifully maintained grass, they believe the state of the site has significantly deteriorated over the last 12 months.

Previously operated by Greater Shepparton City Council the lawn cemetery was placed under the jurisdiction of Remembrance Parks Central Victoria in July last year, with the Bendigo-based trust now overseeing the management and maintenance of the site.

“I said then there goes the care of our beautiful lawn cemetery . . . there will be no care once it moves out of town because it's just not the same,” Ms Pattison said.

“People out of the town don't understand the wishes of people in the town - it just breaks your heart.”

Ms Pattison said there were now visible patches of dead grass and dirt among the graves, which she described as "just appalling", compared to the previous "carpet of green".

The family believes they are not the only ones sharing these concerns, saying multiple people have spoken to them about the state of the site.

“I was talking to a girlfriend of mine from Swan Hill and she said to me what's happened to the Pine Lodge Cemetery - she comes out to visit to see her parents and she said she had never seen it like it is,” Ms Beanham said.

“She is just blown away.”

The family have described the state of the grass at the cemetery as "cracked dirt".

The family has questioned the current state of the watering system at the cemetery, believing this has impacted on the quality of grass.

Ms Scott said sprinklers on tall stands were once used to water the site.

However she now believed an in-ground sprinkler system was used at the cemetery, which she said needed to be assessed.

“I suggest they do a walk around and check how the sprinklers are working, we were looking at some sprinklers over there and they're stuck, they weren't coming up,” she said.

“The maintenance is just not happening and it once was - it was green here all year round.”

Despite the family's concerns, RPCV has confirmed the site is maintained full-time by an on-site contractor.

RPCV chief executive officer Dean McElroy said staffing levels at the Pine Lodge Cemetery had been unchanged in the transition from council to the Bendigo-based trust, with RPCV staff also on site one to three days per week when needed.

Mr McElroy said this year's dry season had caused weak areas in the grass to show, admitting brown patches always showed up this time of year.

“Current water allocation at the cemetery is restricted to 12 megalitres per annum from the existing bore. RPCV are currently investigating options for increasing water available to the cemetery,” he said.

“The pump is running 24/7 to deliver water to each of the watering stations.”

Irrigation system repair works are scheduled to commence at the Pine Lodge Cemetery this week, which Mr McElroy said were needed due to "considerable operating issues" over the past couple of months.

“We continue to work with local irrigation specialists to identify and develop further corrective actions,” he said.

“A major goal for RPCV is to focus and invest in beautifying all our cemetery spaces, reflective of community expectations, and to provide environments where people want to spend time.”