AT an unsuspecting property just outside of Armidale, an unlikely project is in the works – the region’s first natural burial ground.
Banded Bee Farm is owned by Jane Pickard and Ray South who are on a mission to restore 50 per cent of the property back to native vegetation without the use of herbicides.
“What we’re all about is trying to develop and live sustainable lives and that includes how you’re going to be buried. The way most burials happen now with a lot of non-biodegradable stuff and a lot of toxic chemicals going into the ground with the bodies, it just doesn’t seem right to me,” Ms Pickard said.
“A dead body is a resource, biologically speaking. As it breaks down, it can feed trees. It just seemed like a natural thing to do and it seems absolutely perfect.”
The pair have planted more than 500 native plants on the property in an effort to restore the Saumarez Creek bed and re-establish biodiversity.
“It’s very important for the health of creeks to have an intact ecosystem either side and at the moment along all of Saumarez Creek you would struggle to find a native plant,” Ms Pickard said.
For the pair to be able to host the burial ground on their property there are a number of legislative stipulations.
The burial ground cannot be located near a water source used for drinking, the soil must be able to be dug and the site has to be available in perpetuity for the relatives of the deceased to visit.
“That’s one of the reasons that Ray and I are quite happy with it, because we can write in to that covenant, the fact that this whole farm, the whole 40 acres can be kept with all the trees that we manage to plant and they won’t be able to be pulled out,” Ms Pickard said.
“It’s the strongest legal support we can have on that, apparently.”
Ms Pickard and Mr South have stipulated that the herbicide glyphosate is not to be used by Starfish Initiatives or Earth Funerals in planting trees on the lot for the burial ground.
“We don’t want chemical poisons or pesticides used when they’re planting the natives,” Ms Pickard said.
“Normally, what people do is they’ll rip up the ground, spray the whole line and kill everything with chemicals – we don’t want that.
“That’s why we’re trialling this method of actually cultivating the soil to kill the grasses instead.”
A Development Application is now bring prepared for the Uralla Shire Council to seek approval for what may become known as the New England Natural Burial Ground.
If all goes to plan, it is hoped the first burial can be undertaken following spring next year.