Shane Hansen's artwork is a part of him.

So he felt like his identity was being taken away when he saw what looked like his artwork plastered on a van without his permission.

Mr Hansen, who lives in Tutukaka, filed a claim against Escape Rentals Limited, a New Zealand campervan hire company, alleging it copied five of his artworks and spray painted them on rental vans.

The claim alleges this is copyright infringement, a breach of Mr Hansen's moral rights and a breach of the Fair Trading Act.

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Mr Hansen said he found out the company was using images resembling his artwork when a friend texted him a photo of a van after he'd seen it travelling around the South Island in January.

"Every piece of I do is a part of me. It's not like something I just chuck together and don't really care what happens to it, it's actually an expression of a feeling or an emotion that I have.

"How I like to explain what they've done is for me I feel like they've put a photo of me on the side of their van, it's like taking away my identity," Mr Hansen said.

The Northern Advocate contacted Escape Rentals Limited but they did not comment.

Shane Hansen's artwork.
Shane Hansen's artwork.
An Escape Rentals Limited van.
An Escape Rentals Limited van.

Mr Hansen, who affiliates to Tainui with Ngati Mahanga and Ngati Hine roots, describes his style as contemporary Maori/New Zealand art with a modern take on flora and fauna.

He saw one of the rental vans himself in April when he was driving with his kids who said "hey Dad, there's your artwork on the side of that van."

"That kind of shook me a bit and made me a little bit upset," he said.

Mr Hansen was worried his working relationship with other companies who licence his artwork legitimately could be affected.

He said his artwork, particularly the ones similar to the artwork on the vans, were personal and related to life experiences.

He said he started drawing and painting when he was going through a phase of depression and used bright colours to lift his moods.

"They're pieces that are supposed to be inspirational and uplifting and you can look at them and go they're just a pretty picture of the landscape or one of our beautiful birds are in them.

"But for me it's a deeper message and it's celebrating the beauty of life and an expression of culture."

Mr Hansen said he hoped by filing the claim it would also encourage other artists to protect their work.

"I know a lot of artists and they've had this happen to them and they've done nothing. It's stressful, it's emotional, but financially it costs a lot especially when you're unsure of the outcome so a lot have settled for nothing. I felt it was an opportunity to draw a line in the sand and say it's not acceptable."

The first case management conference will be held in the High Court at Auckland on Tuesday, September 5.