SEPTEMBER 02, 2012 12:00AM, The Sunday Telegraph, ELIZABETH MERYMENT

 Chinese garden farmers

Suburban farmers Gordon Ha and Robert Teng with the cemetery behind them and in their Matraville market garden on Friday. They fear losing their traditional livelihood. Picture: Sam Ruttyn Source:The Daily Telegraph

GORDON Ha’s family has worked the La Perouse Chinese market garden for more than 70 years, but the farmer fears his tenure will be up after next week’s council elections.

Working one of three heritage-listed plots on the site, Ha has his livelihood is under threat because the operators of neighbouring Botany Cemetery want to expand on to the land.

In July, Randwick City Council voted 8-6 to rezone the 7ha to “rural” to protect it from the cemetery.

But Chinese-Australian Forum president Patrick Voon said three of the garden’s eight supporters were retiring at next Saturday’s council election, with no guarantees from incoming candidates for continued support.

“This is such an historic site – even when the First Fleet sailed into here they drew fresh water from the area,” Mr Voon said. “The site has been worked as a market garden for generations: the first evidence we have of Chinese farmers in the area goes to 1909.”

Randwick Mayor Scott Nash agreed the situation was volatile for the two remaining farmers who work the plots, with a possibility the Eastern Suburbs Memorial Park Trust, which runs the cemetery, would try again to claim the plot after the election.

Cr Nash said he supported the cemetery’s expansion because extra plots were required for the area.

“There is tension in the area (about this),” Cr Nash said.

“The tension is because the Christian Orthodox, including the Greek Orthodox, the Muslim and and Jewish faiths in the area, and Aboriginal groups, do not believe in cremation.”