15 Apr 2024

Man pleads guilty to vandalising K Road rainbow crossing, to pay $16,000

4:54 pm on 15 April 2024
The rainbow crossing on Auckland's Karangahape Road was covered in white paint overnight. Rain overnight washed much of the paint away, but remnants could still be seen on the crossing, 28 March 2024.

Photo: RNZ / Marika Khabazi

A man charged with vandalising a Rainbow crossing on Auckland's Karangahape Road has pleaded guilty and has been ordered to pay $16,093 in reparations.

The pedestrian crossing was covered in white paint more than two weeks ago, just days after the rainbow crossing in Gisborne was vandalised.

Ford O'Connor, 31, appeared at the Auckland District Court Monday morning and entered a guilty plea.

Destiny church leader Brian Tamaki addressed the media outside earlier, saying O'Connor was married to his granddaughter and was a member of the church.

Community magistrate Jan Holmes said she gave credit to the accused for the early plea and his willingness to pay the $16,093 for cleaning the crossing.

No further penalties were imposed and O'Connor was discharged with conviction.

Prior to the man's arrest, police had said they were treating the vandalism as a hate crime.

Hate crimes, while recorded by police, are not stand alone offences but are seen as a motivating factor.

Police's working definition of a 'hate crime' is as any offence that is perceived, by the victim or by any other person, to be motivate by hostility or prejudice based on a person's characteristic.

This can be race, religion, sexual orientation, gender/transgender identity, disability, or age.

Last week Auckland Pride called for a restorative justice approach to the offending, focusing on repairing relationships between victims, offenders, and the community while at the same time keeping considerations of justice in mind.

Co-chair Quack Pirihi said solutions were needed that protected communities and built an equitable Aotearoa.

Auckland Pride co-chairperson Bhenjamin Goodsir said on Monday, after the sentencing, that reparations paid for paint, but didn't make rainbow communities safer.

"We need to address the underlying homophobia and transphobia.

"I don't think we can be excited about repainting in the context of the hate and transphobia being experienced by many at the moment."

He said the consequences needed to go beyond the courthouse.

"This needs a wider response from the community, from leaders, from the rainbow community and other churches who can speak out about this and about why the hate and misinformation coming from Brian Tamaki is wrong and really hurtful."

Goodsir said those responsible for the vandalism did not understand the harm it caused, and a restorative justice approach would help to change that.

All the court process had done was give Tamaki a platform to "spread hate and misinformation further", Goodsir said.

Auckland Transport has confirmed the rainbow crossing will be repainted within a month.

Director of Infrastructure and Place Murray Burt said Auckland Transport has already spent $11,000 for the initial removal of the white paint.

"Now there's going to be additional costs on top of this for the new paint, and the traffic management to support the workers while that paint's going down, so will definitely be $16,000 maybe even more," he said.

"By repainting the crossing and restoring it back to its original form, we hope it will restore a sense of pride in the community."

Politicians from National, ACT and the Green Party have criticised the vandalism.

'It was one of my family members'

"I was not initially aware the protest had occurred until I saw it on the AM show the following morning, but I suspected it could be one of the Destiny Church members," Brian Tamaki said.

"Turns out, it was one of my family members."

Tamaki said the painting over of the crossing was not a hate crime.

He said he supported O'Connor's act of protest against what he called "rainbow washing" at the taxpayer's expense.

Tamaki said the rainbow crossings were confusing to pedestrians and drivers, and are "not right and not normal".

Destiny Church will continue protesting in "multiple places" until the government take notice and "put an end to this madness", he said.

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