Parliament passes anti-tagging law

01:43, Jan 31 2009

A bill that gets tough with taggers has been passed by Parliament with an overwhelming majority.

The Summary Offences (Tagging and Graffiti Vandalism) Amendment Bill creates a specific tagging offence, raises the maximum fine for tagging from $200 to $2000 and bans the sale of spray cans to people under 18.

It passed its third reading tonight on a vote of 107-10.

Labour's Darren Hughes, speaking for the Government on behalf of Justice Minister Annette King, said tagging wasn't simply a nuisance activity.

"It is an invasion of private and public property that is often intimidating and anti-social," he said.

"It can't be considered art, it is often mindless scrawl that causes great financial and emotional cost which the perpetrators seem to care nothing about."

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Mr Hughes said taggers were not just bored individuals, they were often linked to gangs and other forms of juvenile delinquency.

National's Judith Collins said the first duty of any government was to protect its citizens.

"Graffiti helps create an environment in which people think they don't have to respect the rights of others," she said.

"If we continue to treat it as a minor issue, some sort of resistance artwork, then we will continue to see a breakdown of law and order."

The Greens and the Maori Party opposed the bill.

Maori Party MP Hone Harawira said he was not a fan of tagging.

"It's ugly and offensive and it makes a town look like s***," he said.

"But I don't agree with some of the garbage spoken by others in this House."

Mr Harawira said tagging was not a step to more serious crime.

"A lot of the kids who tag are the same ones who scribble in class, shunted to the back by an education system geared to suspending and expelling black kids from school faster than anyone else," he said.

"It's the result of a growing frustration among youth to a society concerned more about profit than people.

"Tagging is the reaction of the poor to alienation, anger, boredom, frustration and low esteem."

Green Party MP Nandor Tanczos said the bill would not stop tagging and no one thought it would.

"This bill is about being seen to respond to tagging rather than actually doing anything about it," he said.

"We should be looking at what's going on with young people and thinking about how we can enhance opportunities for them to express their creativity, to be connected and participate."

Mr Tanczos said alcohol, which was clearly linked to crime and violence, was treated "significantly less seriously" than spray cans would be under the legislation.

- NZPA