Eckhardt Reyneke didn't think twice about quickly painting over swastikas graffitied outside a Jewish temple, calling it a "small deed", but his actions have sparked tears of thanks.
Last week Wellington City Council received reports of graffiti in several locations on The Terrace and outside the Wellington Jewish Progressive Congregation on Ghuznee St.
Council contractors swiftly removed the graffiti from the various sites but when they got to Temple Sinai they found it had already been erased from the fence.
Reyneke, 20, was working on a construction site next door to the temple when his colleague noticed the swastikas while throwing away some rubbish.
"We've got some mean paint stripper down in the shed so we went and got it and started cleaning it off... I suggested that we paint over it so you couldn't even see the stains.
"I thought about taking a photo but then I thought I don't want to even go through that effort, it [the graffiti] just deserves to disappear."
Raised as a Christian, Reyneke said he was taught to respect other people's traditions and practices.
The graffiti put the Jewish community on edge and highlighted a growing feeling of insecurity and vulnerability.
Race Relations Commissioner Meng Foon said he was appalled by the anti-Semitic acts of intimidation and vandalism.
"All New Zealanders have the right to hold and practise their religious beliefs free from the fear of danger. It is not right that worshippers of any faith should have to worry about their safety and security. I and my fellow commissioners stand with the Jewish community."
At a commemoration acknowledging International Holocaust Remembrance Day in Wellington this week, Reyneke was presented with an Upstander Award for his swift actions to remove the graffiti.
"I feel like that award is way too much for a deed like that but I was very grateful," he said.
Several people approached Reyneke after the ceremony and thanked him.
"One of the ladies who came over she had tears in her eyes and she just wanted to shake my hand."
Reyneke said his mother pointed out to him that people don't want to forget what happened and how serious it was.
"I think for them to see that someone young out there who knows a little bit about their history and took it seriously must have been nice."