“Dismayed and disgusted” is how Makatu Cemetery caretaker Tam Scott described his feelings last Thursday, when he discovered vandals had desecrated graves at a private cemetery near Kaka Point.
However, he has been heartened by the public response since.
“The place was all right on Sunday night, June 27, when I was last there.
‘‘I usually come every day as I am the kaitiaki (caretaker) of the urupa (cemetery) for my family and others, but all that cold stormy weather we had early last week kept me away.
‘‘When I got there on Thursday afternoon the results of this act of wanton vandalism greeted me.”
Vandals had opened the Makatu cemetery gate, driven over and ripped up several pathways, broken chairs and benches and, much to Mr Scott’s annoyance, stolen several personal bone carvings and greenstone items off his grandmother, Tira (Stella) Raki Raki’s headstone.
“It’s nothing short of desecration,” Mr Scott said.
“I’ve been looking after our families’ graves here since 2006, and nothing like this has ever happened before.”
One bright spark following the incident was the public response to the news, he said.
Since the story was made public, Mr Scott had fielded calls from as far away as Australia.
‘‘I’ve taken many calls from all over the place, and several kind people came along over the weekend to help clean up the mess, plus a local contractor is also helping fix up the paths ruined by the vandals.
‘‘I am amazed and very happy with the messages of kindness by all who called to help me out.
‘‘Thank you everyone.’’
The small private cemetery was opened in 1871 when Mr Scott’s great-grandmother was interred there.
It is now the final resting place for about 45 descendants of the Raki Raki and Potiki families, and others in the Kaka Point district.
“All my family are buried here, my parents and grandparents, my aunties and uncles; I’ll be here one day too, and my extended family as well,” he said.
For the past 15 years Mr Scott has been slowly clearing the 1ha site of gorse, bush and thistle, and restoring the cemetery for future generations.
“It’s been a lot of hard work over the years and to come here and see the damage makes me very, very wild about it.
“It’s very disheartening to see the lack of respect offered by these vandals to people who have given so much to the community here.’’
Mr Scott has alerted Balclutha Police. a Police 105, Crimestoppers 0800 555-111