Brian McIntyre (left) and Jess Neilson on site with the donated water blaster that’s making cleaning the gravestones a lot easier. Photo: Susan Johnson.

Local water blasters help clean up cemeteries


It was a simple post on Facebook, seen as far away as Australia, that lead to the cleanup of the Wakapuaka Cemetery going ahead a lot faster.

Local man Brian McIntyre started restoring the headstones in Wakapuaka Cemetery around four years ago.

Now joined by 12 other volunteers, the group are working their way around 16,000 gravesites using wire brushes, sandpaper and even once a denture brush.

Realising that a water blaster would be much quicker way to get things done, Brian put a post on Facebook at Christmas asking if anyone had an “unemployed water blaster over the holidays that he could use”.

Within days the message reached Jeff Neilson, who owns his own water blasting company.

“My sister in Australia saw the post, rang me and said you need to ring Brian and help them out with some water blasting at the cemetery,” says Jeff, who

donated the water blaster along with Grant Sutton, from Water Blasting Solutions.

When the pair began to surveythe site, they realised getting water was going to be a problem.

Luckily, another helpful local offered the use of his outdoor tap, and they were good to go.

The team quickly realised that this was a short-term solution due to the size of the cemetery, and Grant and Jeff agreed that the Brian and his team would benefit from having their own water blaster.

Together, Grant and Jeff gifted them a brand new one.

Since then Brian has completed about 19 hours of work and it has been a huge help.

“The brass plaques look magnificent, and the moss, dirt and lichen come off so easily,” he says. “It’s made a huge difference.”