Public exhibition for controversial Scenic Hills cemetery just two weeks away

No cemetery: Local resident including Jacqui Kirkby and the Discalced Carmelites as well as local MPs Laurie Ferguson (Werriwa), Anoulack Chanthivong (Macquarie Fields) and Greg Warren (Campbelltown) all oppose the proposed cemetery in the Scenic Hills. Picture: Anna Warr

No cemetery: Local resident including Jacqui Kirkby and the Discalced Carmelites as well as local MPs Laurie Ferguson (Werriwa), Anoulack Chanthivong (Macquarie Fields) and Greg Warren (Campbelltown) all oppose the proposed cemetery in the Scenic Hills. Picture: Anna Warr

Varroville residents and local MPs launched a campaign last week as the final decision regarding a 136-000 plot cemetery in Macarthur’s Scenic Hills draws closer.

But despite the opposition, the applicant – the Catholic Metropolitan Cemeteries Trust – has defended its decision to push ahead with the Macarthur Memorial Park proposal.

While Campbelltown councillors repeatedly voted to oppose the cemetery, the decision making powers were handed to the Joint Regional Planning Panel (JRPP), due to the size and scale of the proposal.

The JRPP – which is made up of two councillors and three government appointed members – voted late-last year to place the plan on public exhibition until Monday, February 29.

The announcement of the exhibition period was made via a media release, however it was up to the Advertiser to break the news to long-time opponent Jacqui Kirkby.

Ms Kirkby, the owner of the heritage-listed Varroville House and member of the Scenic Hills Association, has been the most vocal critic of the cemetery and spear-headed the latest campaign titled, “Grazing not Graves”.

“The whole community is affected,” she said.

“Campbelltonians regard the Scenic Hills as iconic, giving them their sense of place and identity.

“The hills are the backdrop to Campbelltown.

“No matter how the church paints the picture, there’s no way to conceal that it’s a cemetery.

“It’s for the dead, not the living.”

Father Paul Maunder of the Discalced Carmelites, said the congregation established itself among the hills due to the quiet surroundings.

“Quiet and solitude are essential to our way of life,” he said.

Both he and fellow Discalced Carmelite, Sister Jocelyn Kramer, said the “lack of transparency and community consultation” was a major sticking point with Varroville residents.

A Catholic Metropolitan Cemeteries Trust spokesman said the protests from vocal Campbelltown residents, local MPs and the council, only represented a “small minority” of the community.

“We are disappointed that a very small minority of vocal protesters are drowning out the overwhelming community view that would like to have a cemetery available in the area that they grew up in,” he said.

“We have undertaken extensive consultation with the public, multi-faith religious communities and business groups across south-west Sydney and have received overwhelmingly positive feedback and encouragement from them to push ahead with our plans.”

The spokesman took particular aim at Ms Kirkby and Macquarie Fields MP Anoulack Chanthivong – who doubles as a Campbelltown councillor.

“Mr Chanthivong, Ms Kirkby and a handful of others have been against this proposal from the start,” he said.

“They say there is strong opposition from the community which is simply not true.”

However Ms Kirkby insisted “the community does not support this” proposal.

Mr Chanthivong said approval of the cemetery would not be in the best interests of the entire Macarthur region.

“The Scenic Hills is such a unique and pristine, rural environment,” he said.

“It’s part of our identity.

“When you travel down the Hume Highway and see the hills, you know you’re home.

“Once it’s gone it’s gone, and when mistakes are made they become permanent.

Campbelltown MP Greg Warren said he remained “skeptical” the Joint Regional Planning Panel would take into account the council and community opposition.

“I don’t think they have to date,” he said.

“I support Campbelltown Council’s bid for the preservation and conservation of the Scenic Hills.”

To lodge a submission visit jrpp.nsw.gov.au/OnExhibition

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