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Kidd says Orange Botanic Gardens will become a "funeral home" if councillors follow advice tonight

Reg Kidd. Copyright: Orange News Examiner.

By Peter Holmes

Former mayor Reg Kidd says it was a mistake to allow the funeral of his former deputy Glenn Taylor to be held at the Orange Botanic Gardens earlier this year, and warns the gardens will become a "funeral home" if councillors back at tonight's meeting the idea of holding regular funerals.

The Orange News Examiner reported on Saturday that Orange City Council staff had recommended in a report to councillors that funerals be allowed to be held in the gardens.

This followed more than 700 contributions from the public on the issue on the council website, with a clear majority (75 percent) in favour of allowing funerals.

Funerals would only occur on weekdays and would each have a fee of $300.

Only one funeral a day would be allowed under the proposal.

Kidd, who retired from council at the election last December, responded to our story with a social media post in which he described the endorsement of council staff as "very shortsighted".

"Being involved with [the] gardens from the beginning, and putting [in] thousands of voluntary hours, I am disappointed that a Botanic Gardens can become a funeral home!!!!" he wrote.

"No problems with memorial services, but [not] visitors, community being fronted by coffins etc whilst visiting/enjoying a public space."

Kidd said he had written a letter to council's CEO David Waddell and asked for it to be distributed to all councillors ahead of Tuesday night's meeting.

"I'm pissed off," he told The Orange News Examiner on Tuesday morning.

The funeral for Glenn Taylor was held in the botanic gardens. Copyright: Orange News Examiner.

"What next? Funerals in Cook Park, Robertson Park, the lake?"

Asked if there should be room to give dispensation for the occasional funeral, such as for former deputy mayor Taylor, Kidd said: "No I don't ... I just think there was inadequate consultation there."

The former mayor said council staff should have consulted more widely with relevant groups and bodies associated with the gardens before making a recommendation to councillors.

He said the online survey did not truly represent the views of the city as many people didn't know about it, or didn't use the internet.

And he said "you just can't call something a botanic gardens; there are all these rules and regulations that go with it".

In his letter to Waddell, a copy of which has been obtained by The Orange News Examiner, Kidd said: "I have been on the Botanic Gardens coordinating committee since it began in 1979 ... then spent a number of years clearing and cleaning the site up with students, and then with the committee ... I helped co ordinate a launch, then an official opening.

"Many hours have been spent over the years in developing the master plan (and revisions), and much work was involved in getting the gardens recognised as a Botanical Garden.

Orange Botanic Gardens. Copyright: Orange News Examiner.

"Unfortunately even though a 'Friends of the Botanic Gardens Group' was formed, and has raised much funds for the gardens, and undertaken thousands of hours of maintenance for the gardens, they were not consulted, nor were members (many still around Orange) of The Botanic Gardens Advisory Committee.

"The Gardens have followed some very important principles in their establishment and subsequent years to maintain the title Botanic Gardens, and a number of hard decisions have been made (for instance not allowing trees to be planted outside the master plan, and not with memorial plagues).

"The first official planting at the gardens was done by ex Mayor Richard Niven and his mother, and I have had the privilege of planting a tree each decade since their opening.

"I have had so many people contact me, expressing their concerns that such a proposal was even considered without genuine engagement with the folk that have the history and botanical knowledge of the gardens.

"There is a beautifully maintained garden at the Crematorium (I think they are called the Memorial Gardens ), where a funeral service can be held outside enjoying the ambience of the gardens.

"As you know I have lost my Mum and Dad over the last few years, and I know of the love they had for the gardens, but I did not think that the Botanic Gardens was the proper place for a Funeral Service.

"We have had some folk who have put in many years of voluntary work into the gardens, but their families did not seek to have their funerals at the gardens as they acknowledged and respected the objectives of a Botanic Gardens.

"I understand the emotion around the loss of a loved one, but I also respect what the objectives and purpose of a 'Botanic Garden'."


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