Regulation sought for tattooing

23:30, May 11 2014

Nelson's tattoo scene needs to be cleaned up, according to local MP Nick Smith.

Smith had been approached by an upset father whose 16-year-old daughter had recently had tattoos done on both of her hands.

There is no law restricting the age for getting tattoos in New Zealand. The Nelson City Council does not have any health or safety bylaws on tattooing either.

Established tattoo artists spoken to by the Nelson Mail said they had a high code of ethics in their work, and anyone 18 or under who wanted a tattoo had to have parental permission.

However, they all said there were "rogue operators" who did not share their standards.

Artist Sharon Salmon required a parent to join under-18s in the parlour when getting a tattoo.


She would also generally refuse to do face, neck or hand tattoos on anyone, though had exceptions for cultural tattoos or if a person was already heavily tattooed.

Salmon has been in the profession for 25 years and has lobbied local and central government to get the industry regulated. She said a big concern was health and safety.

"There is an elite group of tattoo artists who have been here for years and have rules and regulations on health and safety, we all work together."

She said she agreed with Smith but said the need for regulation was nothing new. "There needs to be proper policy like there is with the food or the hairdressing industry."

Salmon took pride in her work and would only tattoo something she was comfortable with.

The Last Port and Phoenix Tattoos also required those under 18 to have parental permission.

Phoenix Tattoos artist Scott Combes said he was careful about who he tattooed, and what he tattooed on them.

He said tattoo artists should have to meet health and safety codes. He was also concerned about tattoo guns being purchased on the internet and people starting up tattoo parlours too easily.

The father who approached Smith wanted to remain anonymous, but said he was "absolutely mortified" that his daughter was able to get the tattoos.

"No 16-year-old is old enough to make those decisions. As far as I am aware she got them on a whim."

The man said his daughter would not

say where she got the tattoos. He believed the tattooist was an inexperienced artist who was not part of the established tattoo parlours.

The father also had tattoos on his hands, all done before he turned 18 and he "regretted every single one of them".

He said regulation needed to be put in place in Nelson, as it had been in Auckland through the Auckland Council's Health and Hygiene Bylaw and Code of Practice 2013.

Smith said there was a case for it to be made a nationwide law, but a Nelson City Council bylaw would be an "interim way forward".

Nelson Mayor Rachel Reese said she was looking into the issue.

"I understand people's concerns and happy to look into it. One thing to look at is if it should be regulated from central, rather than local government."

The Nelson Mail