Wellington fails on graffiti

ANDREA O'NEIL
Last updated 05:00 08/02/2014

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Wellington is the worst city in the country for dealing with graffiti, a frustrated councillor says.

A graffiti vandalism audit has found that - despite a $580,000 effort to erase Wellington's graffiti problem - tagging is out of control in the city and compared unfavourably with other cities.

"It's a pretty sad day for Wellington. We're the worst city in the country. We're meant to be ‘absolutely, positively'," Wellington city councillor Paul Eagle said, unveiling a new graffiti strategy yesterday.

Despite spending more than half a million dollars painting over tags last financial year, Wellington City Council's effort was called "barely adequate" by global standards in the audit by Tasman Research and Consultation.

The council was rated at 79 out of 100 for cleaning its own buildings of tags, while Hutt City Council received 90. British councils generally target 96 per cent, and usually achieved about 92, the report said.

The audit also found Wellington's Lambton ward was as graffiti-covered as its rail corridors.

Council figures show that, in 2012, 11,712 tags were removed across the city but the audit suggested that many more went unreported.

The Cuba Fruit Market spends $1000 a year cleaning graffiti, not to mention the hours of painstaking scrubbing.

"It is so frustrating. It's such a horrible job," owner Joshna Dayal said.

Just yesterday morning a grocery truck had been tagged, which happened every couple of weeks.

Comrades army surplus shop owner Isabelle Asblidge said the tagging was getting worse because perpetrators were getting away with it.

"It's like shoplifting. They just get a slap on the hand, then they'll keep doing it."

Mr Eagle said businesses and residents had no idea who to call when they found a tag, and were often given conflicting information.

"Two people would get two different answers. There was also a ‘fob off' approach from some quarters," he said.

The Hutt and Porirua councils were years ahead of Wellington in getting communities to engage in the graffiti battle, Mr Eagle said.

Lower Hutt also had the foresight in 2011 to pass a bylaw allowing council staff to remove visible graffiti from private property without permission.

Wellington was gearing up for a similar approach, which had already been successful in Newtown.

Residents, police, Maori wardens, business owners, environmental groups and the council would work together to eradicate graffiti fast, cover walls with murals, and bring charges against taggers.

The strategy is expected to be presented to the council in May. Spending on graffiti management could double, Mr Eagle said.

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The council's community services manager, Jenny Rains, said the community would not be asked to pick up the tab for cleaning graffiti and the budget would not increase.

- The Dominion Post

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