Tauranga Art Gallery has recently been home to some of the world's most coveted street art.
Banksy is an anonymous political activist who uses spray can and stencils to protest, entertain and create social conscience.

In 2008 he challenged Britain's surveillance society by painting in bold letters 'One Nation Under CCTV' next to a security camera.

It is ironic that his works were on display just a couple of blocks from the Tauranga Council building - a place that is home to a control centre monitoring 360 cameras across the city.

But the Council's Traffic Control Team Leader, James Wickham, reassures us that Tauranga's setup doesn't forewarn a dystopian society.


"The key thing is that we're trying to make it [the city] safer," Mr Wickham said.

"A lot of people feel unsafe about going out at night [and] there are vulnerable people.

"It's just as much about keeping them safe."

Not long after arriving in a room full of live camera feeds that stretched as far as Mount Maunganui, a phone rang.

The secret agent jingle filled the air and provided a fitting backdrop to the swag of monitors lining the wall.

This was no time to be distracted by secret agent fantasies, though. Mr Wickham continued his tour.

"These dots are where we're building new traffic signals," he said, pointing to a map full of dots.

"That's an awful lot. That's more than we've got already."

The map he referred to was a well-constructed graphic built around the detailed information made possible by the setup.

But Mr Wickham has a lot more to do in the day than draw on maps - the team leader is kept busy co-ordinating a team of eight who check on intersections and monitor traffic.

If something major happens, they become an incident management centre.

The focus shifts again at night when crime-stopping becomes the main task.

An operator with 16 years' experience arrives at headquarters and Mr Wickham said he has a knack for spotting crims.

"He's very, very experienced and well respected by the police," Mr Wickham said.

"If he says there's going to be a fight kick off somewhere, the police will be there because they know if he says there's going to be one, there'll be one.

"[He's] very good with body language.

Although Mr Wickham spends the majority of his day watching busy intersections, he has not gone without his fair share of strange sights himself.

"We got some footage of some people, a romantic couple, going out on the wharf on a beautiful moonlit night," Mr Wickham said.

"Then they saw [the] life preserver [floatation device] on the end of the wharf and they started playing with it.

"He went off and came back with some tools and a knife. About half an hour they worked on this thing, they got it off, threw it in the water, and let it float off.

"Sometimes you just can't fathom."

And for those concerned about being watched by people on the other end of a camera, Mr Wickham has a simple message.

"If you've got something to be concerned about, then be concerned.

"It's not about picking on people [and] it's not about profiling or anything like that."

"It's about improving safety and being proactive."

It would seem the days of releasing flotation devices into Tauranga Harbour are well and truly over.

By the numbers
360 cameras are active across the city.
They are monitored by a team of eight people.
At night the focus shifts from traffic control to crime prevention.