Wollongong councillors voted to give the Waterfall Hospital Cemetery its ‘‘rightful place’’ in the history of the city on Monday night.
The Waterfall Hospital Cemetery – also known as The Garrawarra Cemetery – is the final resting place of about 2000 tuberculosis patients who died at the nearby sanatorium early last century.
The cemetery ‘‘disappeared’’ in 1967 when the records of the Waterfall General Hospital became lost during a NSW government handover to council.
A report before councillors on Monday night said there was no evidence that the council at the time took any active role in maintaining the site.
It was not rediscovered until roughly two years ago when the council was working on a project to rezone environmentally sensitive land in the area.
The report recommended the council continue to manage the cemetery, upgrade the site and allow public access.
It also recommended that the site be listed with the NSW Heritage Council.
Councillor Leigh Colacino said it was an issue he felt ‘‘fairly emotional’’ about and that the time had come to give the cemetery ‘‘the rightful place it deserves in our history’’.
He said the cemetery was a ‘‘place that had been forgotten by many’’.
‘‘It was forgotten because it was the stigma of tuberculosis,’’ Cr Colacino said.
‘‘TB was the AIDS of its time.’’
Cr Chris Connor said work should proceed quickly as the cemetery was located in ‘‘one of our most dangerous bushfire-prone areas’’.
‘‘If we don’t take action to clear the site and reduce the fuel load, we will lose more of that history,’’ he said.
Councillors passed the recommendations of council staff, which noted that management of the cemetery would incur a cost to the council.
The report estimated upgrading the site, including clearing vegetation, would cost more than $200,000.
On top of that, the cemetery would need at least $20,000 in ongoing costs.
Councillors also moved to seek grants from either the NSW government or other groups to assist with the costs of managing the cemetery.