17 Nov 2015

Writing on the wall for Auckland tagging

8:28 am on 17 November 2015

Auckland is winning its battle against graffiti, says mayor Len Brown - and he has come up with new figures to prove his point.

An image posted by a passenger appears to show the tagged train.

Tagging on an Auckland train (file photo). Photo: FACEBOOK

Mr Brown set up a regionwide graffiti prevention programme as a top priority in 2010, and said, in the last two years, tagging had fallen by a quarter.

Yesterday, he brought the various services used by Auckland Council together to give out certificates of appreciation.

Other groups battling against graffiti, like the Police, KiwiRail, and the lines company Vector, were also there.

Watching on was Daniel Poumako, 14, who has more than once been caught tagging. He said he did it so he could fit in.

"My friends and the people that I was hanging around with - they never said anything, I just copied what they did, and I wanted to be like them.

"It just made me feel like that my name was getting out there and known to the streets," he said.

Daniel Poumako, aged 14.

Daniel Poumako, aged 14. Photo: RNZ/Kim Baker Wilson

But Daniel has vowed to stop tagging.

He has twice been picked up by Jennings George from the Tag Out Trust, an agency which removes grafffiti.

"They do it because of their peers, they also want to do it for the fame. Only a tagger knows the feeling.

"They're probably asking the community, 'how much do you care enough to even come out and report that tagging'."

Mr George, at the frontline of the fight against graffiti, tried to act as a role model and sounding board for young taggers, he said.

"When I meet a young person, I don't say 'how did you get here', because I already know that.

"A lot of these kids, they've never ever heard the words 'you're amazing, you're awesome'," he said.

Mr George has noticed less graffiti in areas like Sunnyvale in West Auckland, where he said people would even tag grass and hedges.

Auckland mayor Len Brown at the gathering of graffiti agencies in Auckland.

Auckland mayor Len Brown at the gathering of graffiti agencies in Auckland. Photo: RNZ/Kim Baker Wilson

Across the city, 125,000 tagging cases were reported in the 2012/13 financial year, which fell to 94,000 in the 2014/15 financial year, Mr Brown said.

Most graffiti being reported now was gone within 24 hours or less, he said.

Corrie Jamieson manages graffiti removal on the North Shore and said the numbers released by the mayor backed up what he was seeing.

"I know in our particular area in Beach Haven, when you went there five years ago, there was a lot of graffiti and you didn't feel safe, you wouldn't take your family down there.

"Now I go down there, it takes me half an hour just to get a drink or something, because everyone wants to talk and stop - five years ago it wasn't like that," Mr Jamieson said.

On the other side of the Harbour Bridge, Gary Holmes from the Glenn Innes Business Association said he had also noticed a significant downward trend.

"I used to take the train from Britomart to Glenn Innes and the route used to be completely covered in graffiti, both on the rail network and on the buildings on the side.

"You do that same trip there and there's no sign of that graffiti... it's certainly a very notable change," he said.

Further south, the Manukau Beautification Trust told the meeting that five years ago it removed 98,000 square metres of tagging.

It said in the last financial year this fell to 58,000 square metres, and that Auckland residents were now far less tolerant of graffiti vandalism.