Welcome to the Delly grind. Delly Ranginui has been appointed Hutt City Council's graffiti eradication co-ordinator, a role created after mayor Ray Wallace promised to get tough on tagging.
Mr Ranginui, in his late 50s, was involved in the paint industry, and before his appointment managed the Wainuiomata Shopping Centre.
The job gave him plenty of experience to tackle graffiti pests.
"The mall was tagged every day basically, we used to have a lot of problems."
He has a personal dislike of the graffiti that mars his town.
"I guess when it hits home for me is when I take my grandchildren to the park for sport. If you see a tag it detracts from the experience. It affects the whole community. It just looks ugly."
Tagging is "a whole different world," he says.
He's heard of cases where an older youth will "sell" their tag to younger teens – giving them the right to use it.
"The young ones look up to them."
Mr Ranginui's main role is to co-ordinate the removal of tagging through its graffiti removal contractors SB Maintenance.
He works with community groups, government, local businesses, and electricity providers who maintain transformer boxes to make sure graffiti is cleaned up as fast as possible.
"Basically we're the only council that has a full-time graffiti eradication co-ordinator, and also a contractor dedicated to the job full-time."
Technology is helping in the fight against tagging.
In September, the council began using a system called "Stop Tags".
Each tag is photographed and entered into a database listing the date, where the tag was found and when.
The database is now used to create a map identifying "hot spots" – the Lower Hutt CBD, Stokes Valley shopping centre, and parts of Taita and Naenae.
It is hoped to soon use it to prosecute serial taggers, Hutt City Council community development officer Adrian Peoples says.
Lower Hutt's most prolific offender is believed to be responsible for 321 tags since December.
"We have a good working relationship with the police, and they're happy to help us prosecute. We think this sends a message about the lengths that we will go to to catch taggers," Mr Peoples says.
"We know our taggers travel. They go on the trains, we see their tags there and in Wellington."
Technology can also help physically prevent graffiti, for example on graffiti-prone trains.
KiwiRail has trialled a sensor-triggered spray system in Palmerston North, which covers carriages in a fine mist to stop aerosol paint from sticking.
Community murals, such as in Naenae and Wainuiomata, are covered in a thin film, making them easy to clean if they are tagged.
Lower Hutt's tougher measures already appear to be working.
In a recent survey of graffiti vandalism, Hutt City Council received a score of 90 out of a possible 100 – up from 72 last year.
In the council's latest community survey, 83 per cent of those surveyed were very or fairly satisfied that the city was graffiti-free. This is a jump from 68 per cent last year.
The figures show good progress, Mr Ranginui says.
"I don't think you'll ever get rid of it completely, but in terms of where we were 12 months ago, I'd say we are winning, especially in the area of removing it quickly. We are now frustrating the taggers."
Mr Wallace found the topic of graffiti came up time and time again when he was campaigning for the mayoralty in 2010. "I was out there doorknocking, and people were saying they were sick to the back teeth of graffiti and the problems we were having.
"The thing negative about graffiti is the feeling of a lack of safety. That's something we have to change."
There are signs community attitudes to tagging are toughening.
IN 2008, Judge Tony Adeane became a local hero in Hawke's Bay when he took a hard line on taggers, giving a series of offenders a taste of prison.
Taggers, he said, were making Hastings look like a North American slum and rejected suggestions graffiti was art or culture.
"If it's art, why aren't the artists out doing it in broad daylight?" he said.
"It is covert, criminal behaviour."
Also that year Kilbirnie community constable Theo Gommans introduced pink vests for taggers to wear while cleaning up their handiwork.
Last year, Upper Hutt City Council issued a Tag the Tagger booklet in February, after talks with police.
Hutt City Council has launched a three-pronged attack on tagging, built around education, eradication and enforcement.
"I was brought in because we needed to start looking at this as a crime, rather than a maintenance issue," Mr Peoples says.
"It's probably one of those unique crimes, because we get more calls about it than the police do, because people know we'll clean it up."
Lower Hutt Senior Sergeant Steve Harwood said nabbing taggers in the act is a priority for police.
"If we get reports of people tagging we will dispatch staff. We see it as an important way of making people feel safe in the community."
The council aims to clean graffiti up within 48 hours – deterring would-be taggers, Mr Peoples says.
"Rapid removal is the goal."
He shares Mr Ranginui's disdain for tagging.
"To me it shows a lack of respect for the community. It's almost a violent thing. There's that same lack of respect." The council recently signed a deal with the Corrections Department, which will see periodic detention workers assigned to remove graffiti.
"This is a chance for them to give something back to the local community," Mr Wallace says.
School pupils are also being targeted for education, trying to get to young people before they think of picking up a spray can, Mr Peoples says.
"We're trying to give them the message that graffiti isn't cool. We need young people to reject tagging. It's not art, it's just scrawling. There are no Banksies in the Hutt."
BY THE NUMBERS
5426 graffiti offences reported in Lower Hutt between September 1 and April 30.
17,439 total number of tags reported.
12,859 square metres: total area painted.
90 per cent: Lower Hutt graffiti cleaned within two days.
$5 million spent on graffiti removal in the greater Wellington region each year.
$500,000 spent by Hutt City Council.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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