P'ed off in Paraparaumu: Kapiti Coast signs lose their letters in anti-drug protest
It was the erfect crime.
In a most mysterious move, the letter P has been taped over on dozens of road signs on the Kapiti Coast, north of Wellington, bemusing motorists and annoying the council.
The vandals struck over the weekend and in broad daylight: two young men in hi-vis vests were seen using a ladder on Sunday to reach one sign on Kapiti Rd, one of the busiest streets in Paraparaumu – or ara araumu, as it has now become.
The man behind the stunt was artist Hohepa Thompson, of Hori studio in Otaki, who said he and his fellow campaigners tried to hit every P they saw from Palmerston North to Porirua to get people to focus on ridding communities of methamphetamine.
"Our whole kaupapa at Hori is we don't follow the rules ... we push boundaries," Thompson said on Monday night.
"I got to that point where I was like, I have had enough of it [methamphetamine]. And we have a platform here we can do something about it."
The P-less placenames are just the start, with Thompson encouraging everyone to take the Ps out of everything until September 23.
But Kapiti Mayor K Gurunathan was not impressed. "There are other ways of raising awareness, and messing around with traffic signs is not it."
Altering road signs could be considered wilful damage and didn't achieve much in the way of public goodwill, he said.
The issue of methamphetamine use on the coast was something he was looking at, and would address with the Wellington region's mayors at a future forum.
"I'm starting to hear the stories and it's worrying me, and I've asked to get more data on it."
Kapiti Coast District Council environmental standards manager Jacquie Muir said willfully damaging property was an offence and not condoned by council. Offenders could face imprisonment or a fine up to $2000, she said.
Anti-methamphetamine campaigner and drug counsellor Andrew Hopgood said he did not know who was behind the stunt, but said it was good to get people talking about the drug and its effects on the area.
"Kapiti is swimming in the stuff ... it's a massive problem and I can't play it down."
In the past two weeks, he had seen a dozen Kapiti people seeking treatment for addiction, he said.
On Monday morning, many of the signs had had their letters unmasked as a council maintenance crew peeled off the tape.
But dozens still sported crossed-out letters, and motorists reported it wasn't just Kapiti that had been targeted.
Porirua's Postgate Dr briefly lost its P, and signs in Levin had also fallen prey to the mysterious vandals.
Porirua Deputy Mayor Izzy Ford said there were other, less obtrusive, ways for people to make a statement.
"Some people have a lot of time on their hands."
One Kapiti motorist, who gave his name only as Jim, said he thought the signs were "hilarious" and encouraged the council to leave them unchanged.
"I had a bit of a chuckle on my way past them this morning."