Work starts on controversial cemetery in the Scenic Hills

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Construction started in December on the controversial 136,000 burial plot cemetery in the Campbelltown Scenic Hills at Varroville.

The proponent of the Macarthur Memorial Park, Catholic Cemeteries and Crematoria, issued a press release on December 4 announcing the start of construction.

The release said work had commenced “on a world-class memorial and botanic parkland destination at Varroville in south-west Sydney, providing the people of Campbelltown with a new place to care for loved ones, enjoy, gather and exercise’’.

“Macarthur Memorial Park will feature a new botanic parkland with 136,000 burial plots to be established over the next 100 years, partly fulfilling the pressing need for space in Sydney’s rapidly growing and diverse multi-cultural population,’’ the release said.

“A recent government report found that if there is no change to existing cremation and grave occupancy rates, cemetery capacity in metropolitan Sydney for Jews and Muslims would be exhausted in the next five years.

The CEO of the not-for-profit Catholic Cemeteries and Crematoria, Mr Peter O’Meara, was quoted in the media release.

“We are delighted to commence the construction of these new botanic parklands, which will feature facilities for the local community such as lakes, walking tracks and a café, creating a place of peace and reflection for the whole community,’’ he said.

“We will be adopting a successful overseas model where memorial parklands are now quiet and beautiful places of recreation for all the family, with groves of trees, lakes and open space. For all intents and purposes, they are not cemeteries but beautiful open spaces.

“We will ensure that the burial plots are discreetly positioned inside bush-lined enclosures and the interment practices and beliefs of all religious and cultural groups are respected, with a state of the art chapel and function centre”, he said.

Chairman of the Muslim Cemeteries Board, Mr Kazi Ali, said the lack of burial space has created a real crisis for his community and the new multi-faith cemeteries are long overdue.

“Our cemetery space is close to capacity and with the Muslim community forecast to continue growing over the coming decades, new cemeteries like the Macarthur Memorial Park are critical,” Mr Ali said.

NSW Jewish Board of Deputies also welcomed the start of construction.

The board said the Jewish community was projected to run out of graves available for purchase in Sydney within a few years. The new cemetery would provide for the Jewish community’s burial needs at least until the end of the century.

Locally, the proposal, which was approved in 2019, was opposed by Varroville residents, local MPs and Campbelltown Council as it navigated the planning process, including rezoning of the land.

The cemetery will ultimately surround historic Varroville Homestead, which includes eight acres of land.

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