Writing's on the wall for unsafe anti-graffiti kits

ANDREA O'NEIL
Last updated 09:07 16/03/2014

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Health and safety fears have led to the removal of free graffiti eradication kits from Wellington's anti-tagging arsenal.

The kits were launched in 2009 and contained solvent, gloves, protective glasses, vouchers for free paint test pots and paint discount vouchers.

Five hundred were distributed to Wellington residents and businesses over the following three years, to help fight graffiti and tagging on private property.

But now it has emerged that they were quietly removed at the end of 2012 by Wellington City Council, due to the fire risk of storing solvents in the council offices.

The decision, revealed in documents obtained under the Official Information Act, came as a surprise to the councillor in charge of overhauling the city's graffiti strategy.

Paul Eagle, chairman of the community, sport and recreation committee, had not realised when contacted this week that the kits had been discontinued.

The move made no sense at a time when the council was planning to rely increasingly on proactive residents to fight graffiti, he said.

"I would be disappointed if they were completely gone. They empowered people to actually do something and help themselves out." Wellington is the country's worst-performing city for eradicating graffiti. A February report to the council said tagging was out of control, despite a $580,000 annual graffiti budget.

Council spokesman Richard MacLean said hazard specialists advised the removal of the kits.

About 60 litres of solvent was stored at any one time, with 300 millilitres in each kit. "It was something you really don't want to have in an office."

The kits were never hugely popular, so the council decided against storing the solvent off premises, he said. "They weren't flying off the shelves."

A new graffiti management strategy is currently being formulated, and is due to be presented to councillors in May. It was expected to take its cue from more successful neighbouring councils that encouraged communities to lead the fightback against graffiti.

Funding for the $10.40 kits came from the Ministry of Justice's graffiti vandalism contestable fund, and were also partly sponsored by paint company Resene.

The ministry still funds Wellington City Council to provide graffiti removal materials. Once the graffiti review was complete in May, a better use for that money would be found, MacLean said.

CLEANUP CASH

The Ministry of Justice's anti-graffiti funding from January 2014 to June 2015

Hutt City Council: $8000 for an "Adopt a Spot" project where the community paints over tags on adopted buildings or fences

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Christchurch City Council: $13,044 to provide graffiti removal packs for small businesses who are not covered by the council's clean-up programme.

Upper Hutt City Council: $1000 for a project that involves Rimutaka prison inmates designing and constructing mural boards for walkways in highly tagged areas.

Whangarei District Council: $45,000 for a supervised programme for graffiti offenders that includes eradication run in conjunction with Corrections.

Wellington City Council: $15,500 for mural painting in highly tagged areas and graffiti eradication materials.

Keep New Zealand Beautiful: $112,500 to develop five sites nationally to launch the Paint New Zealand Beautiful initiative, provide a national graffiti education programme for primary and intermediate students, promote murals nationally and promote New Zealand Graffiti Free Week.

- Fairfax Media

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