Two prominent walls in Whangarei have been emblazoned with vibrant murals this week, with private landlords encouraged to invest in public art.

Southbound traffic on State Highway 1 was now greeted by a striking textured tui design on the wall of Otaika Shops, painted by Te Ora Hou's Mike Tupaea, world champion graffiti artist and Aucklander Charles Williams and eight local youths.

More than 1500 people had been by to visit the work in progress, which had its finishing touches added yesterday.

"We're trying to start a conversation around what might inspire youth to pursue their passions," Mr Tupaea said.


"Someone took an interest in me when I was young ... and if it wasn't for that conversation I might not be doing this kind of thing."

Te Ora Hou and Manaia PHO organised the "@ the wall" project, with local builders donating time and materials, and nearby shops putting on free food for artists and onlookers.

Meanwhile, a Whangarei District Council-commissioned mural, finished this week at the popular Hatea Loop walkway, had created two new celebrities in Olivia Moore, 3, and Meao Pokoina, 5.

Artist Earnest Bradley said the mural's premise was an imaginary unrequited childhood romance between the two, who he photographed separately before "photocopying" their likeness on to the wall with fellow artist Victor Te Paa. "She's got a bit of a crush, but he's too into his GI Joes. It's cool to put a bit of a story and some emotion into the wall," Mr Bradley said.

Five-year-old Meao Pokoina and Olivia Moore, 3, whose faces now greet users of the Hatea Loop. Photo / John Stone
Five-year-old Meao Pokoina and Olivia Moore, 3, whose faces now greet users of the Hatea Loop. Photo / John Stone

Meao's dad Quincey Pokoina said the mural would be "a cool thing to show him on his 21st". Olivia's mum Jade said it was "awesome" to have her daughter becoming a familiar face.

WDC landscape architect Tracey Moore said the mural was part of a mission to brighten up the city. She encouraged private landlords to get in on the act. "We really want to embrace having local art around. There's a lot of buildings that could do with improvement and [council] can only do some parts."

Other colourful projects around Whangarei finished recently included the repainting of the Oceans Tutukaka resort, whose bold bright colour scheme had people talking on the coast.

Similarly divisive was WDC's painting of a section of Hatea Loop boardwalk in teal, green, blue and yellow, attracting online comments ranging from "brilliant" to "looks like a clown threw up".