A West Coast council is working to sort out a dispute over the ownership of a section of graveyard which has been sold to a private owner.
The Westland District Council mistakenly sold part of the cemetery in the former gold mining town of Ross to a private owner as abandoned land in 2008.
The council learned of its mistake when a group of local residents was clearing gorse and scrub from the cemetery as part of a heritage project.
Ross resident Biddy Manera was cutting scrub on part of the cemetery last year where she believed a Chinese gold miner was buried.
The group had sought permission from the council but was later told to stop as they were on private land, she said.
Part of the graveyard which is now in private hands has unmarked graves.
Biddy Manera said the initial advertised area had 12 headstones, although that was changed before the purchase.
"We put out a petition demanding the council re-buy the land and that was signed by more than a hundred people.
There was no discussion with residents leading up to the sale," she said.
"Council sold this whole thing off without any community consultation, and no cemetery records. They themselves said - when I questioned them - they had absolutely no cemetery records. So if they had no records, how could they confidently sell that land as abandoned land?
"The council were declaring, not that much later on, that the Ross Cemetery was probably going to close because it was running out of interment space. Well that's why. Cause they sold it off!"
Westland District mayor Mike Havill said it was obvious there had been a mistake.
"Where the (boundary) pegs and that are, I mean, they are hard up against head stones. I think anyone looking at it would say, the natural boundary should have been right over the ridge, or not sold it at all.
"I just think it was possibly more a surveying error than a conscious decision by council staff and councillors to stick the boundaries right there. I think there's been a mistake," he said.
The council is working to fix the issue and expects a report at the end of the month outlining what plan is most feasible.
Mr Havill said he had been told there were no graves, marked or unmarked, in the disputed area, but he would rather buy it back than dig around to find out.
"Whether there are graves outside, I mean the people that are there have been there a long time. I've got no appetite to start digging to confirm. I'd rather put the boundary back," he said.
Biddy Manera would like the matter resolved before Labour Day in October, when Ross celebrates its 150th anniversary, a goal Mike Havill said was realistic.
The landowner did not wish to make any comment.
The council is working to fix the issue, and expects a report at the end of the month, outlining what plan is most feasible, said Mr Havill.
He says he's been told there are no graves, marked or unmarked, in the disputed area, but he'd rather buy it back than dig around to find out.
"Whether there are graves outside....I mean...the people that are there have been there a long time. I've got no appetite to start digging to confirm. I'd rather put the boundary back.
Biddy Manera would like the matter resolved before Labour Day in October, when Ross celebrates its 150th anniversary.
Mike Havill says that's a realistic goal
The land owner did not wish to make any comment.