A PARCEL of land that could accommodate up to 6000 graves at Rookwood Cemetery was rejected by the Jewish Cemetery Trust six years ago it has been revealed.
The land, known as Lot 10, has since been split evenly between the Jewish and Muslim communities, after six cemetery trusts were amalgamated by the state government this week.
Former Jewish Cemetery Trust chairman Jack Fisher told The AJN that Lot 10 had been offered to the Jewish community six years ago and turned down due to its location next to a railway line, the lack of amenities such as parking and toilets, and the cost of preparing it for use.
“Lot number 10 is an area which I knew about 10 years ago, and I didn’t like it then,” he said. “I know that there’s about another $1.5 million to spend on it. Because it’s not even ready for subdivision.”
Noting that the community has enough burial space for the next six to eight years without Lot 10, Fisher said the distance of one alternative, Berrima, would not be a hindrance in the future.
“Fifty years ago Rookwood was a long way from Sydney,” he said.
While careful to say he didn’t wish to criticise anyone involved in the process, Fisher also said he was concerned about the state government reforms that have seen him step down after 33 years, though he is considering standing as a trustee for the new amalgamated trust.
“We should have had the right to an explanation, I believe, as to what analysis had been conducted that resulted in these specialised trusts, the Jewish and the Muslim, not to be needed,” he said.
He further expressed concern about a lack of consultation while the reforms were formulated.
But former NSW Jewish Board of Deputies president David Knoll, who negotiated with the state government on behalf of the community, said Fisher had been kept informed.
“The first person I rang whenever I received a phone call was Jack, and Jack was present with me at the time when the Jewish community was asked to consent to the final arrangements.
“He and I both requested a number of changes to those final arrangements.”
Knoll also pointed out that Lot 10 was an “interim solution” provided by the government and came with a commitment from Macquarie Street to provide adequate burial space for the community through to the end of the century.
“We have to continue to work closely with government to achieve the permanent and long-term solution,” he said. “[Plus] the government has said if there are any further development costs, … they are not expecting the Jewish community to pay those costs.”