Wayne Thompson

Wayne Thompson is a NZ Herald reporter.

Writing on the wall for graffiti

Graffiti vandalism along Auckland's rail corridor will be targeted 24/7 in a new service across the metro area. Photo / Richard Robinson
Graffiti vandalism along Auckland's rail corridor will be targeted 24/7 in a new service across the metro area. Photo / Richard Robinson

A new prevention plan for graffiti vandalism, which costs Auckland ratepayers $5 million a year to remove, aims to introduce a 24/7 service across the region and paint out offensive marks within two hours of them being reported.

Rapid response by all removal contractors is a key part of the plan just approved by Auckland Council.

However, as well as cutting vandals' show time, the plan aims to turn up the heat on offenders and cool down graffiti hot spots.

A regional electronic data base will be formed, modelled on one used successfully in Manukau.

When contractors' patrols come across a tag, they will photograph it before and after painting out and use their i-phones to send the GPS coordinates and images to the central data base.

"Graffiti will be measured and well documented," said Manukau Beautification Charitable Trust general manager Graeme Bakker.

"Removal contractors do not have warrants to bring prosecutions but we can provide the best information to the police to use as evidence for prosecution."

The plan is the result of three years' work started by the chief executives of the region's councils and focuses on what graffiti fighters call the "3 Es" - eradication, enforcement, education.

Enforcement proposals include the council seeking reparation from offenders, because it costs ratepayers $100 to $150 to remove graffiti.

This could mean the council suing for its costs in the civil court.

A boost to eradication is a proposal to set up a register of all the private property owners who have given permission for graffiti cleanups.

"Councils were looking at bringing in a bylaw so shopping areas had to remove it or contract us to," said Safer Papakura Trust chairman Peter Goldsmith.

"We can't just go and do that on private property like shop fronts."

The ability to clean graffiti off shops before people passed on the way to school or work could be part of a bylaw proposed in the plan.

Graffiti prevention is one of Mayor Len Brown's 100 priority projects.

Community Safety Forum chairman Councillor George Wood said the council gave a good service and graffiti had been eliminated in some areas.

"I know it's costly but the benefits people of Auckland are getting are immense and it has brought back a lot of pride."

Mr Wood said local boards support the aim of having the same standard of service across the region.

However, service providers, from private contractors to non-profit community trusts, were expected to meet the new targets within the existing budget.

"We recognise the efforts of individual property owners, volunteers, private sector and businesses in doing an excellent job in removing graffiti soon after it's done.

"Going to Papakura on the train, I've been blown away by the clean-up achieved on the rail corridor. But there is work to be done on getting a policy to stop this posting of ghastly bills advertising events in public areas."

Iris Donoghue, of West Auckland's Tag Out Trust, said the 24/7 service would be phased in over the next four or five months to test demand and cost benefit.

The trust removed 15,000 to 16,000 tags a month but this number was dropping.

Mr Bakker said the Manukau trust's beat included Franklin and the rail corridor on behalf of KiwiRail.

In December 2005, the trust removed 10,500sq m of tagging compared with 4000sq m last December.

"Graffiti in Manukau is at a low level at the moment but if we take our foot off the neck of the problem it will bounce back immediately."

Mr Bakker said the new plan reinforced the need for community volunteers to "adopt a spot" and for education on care and respect for the environment.

The council will extend existing contracts with private firms and trusts to June 30 next year and intends to call tenders in December for possibly three-year contracts.

PAINT IT OUT

* Auckland's graffiti problem
* $4.8 million cost 2011-12.
* 340,000 sites cleaned.
* 4th largest issue.
* 67 per cent citizens raised it in safety survey.

- NZ Herald

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