Taggers are ‘trashing’ Tauranga

Street art or vandalism? Harbour bridge abutments are smeared with graffiti. Photo: John Borren.

There are the garish throw-ups under the approaches to the Tauranga Harbour Bridge and beyond the gaze of most locals.

Blockbusters they’re called apparently. They may be construed as art - “quite cool” has been the general consensus. But graffiti none-the-less.

Then there’s the graffiti scarring at the skatepark at the bottom of 17th Avenue which is an eyesore to anyone and everyone travelling up Takitimu Drive onto the toll road. Crude daubing, tagging, or vandalism by another name - signing a pseudonym on public property with markers.

“I think it’s a terrible blight,” says Mayor Greg Brownless. “It’s not even a New Zealand thing.” Mindless, New York style, gobbledygook is how he classifies it. “And apart from painting it out as soon as it happens, there’s not a lot we can do.”

And what happens to someone nabbed while bombing. “Well the answer is four-fifths of nothing,” says Greg. “Penalties are weak, courts are weak and so people are getting away with it.”

The Weekend Sun approached the Mayor after continual rumblings about the growing amount of graffiti around Tauranga. Greg wasn’t aware to the same extent. “We have a squad that takes care of it. But if more and more people are deciding to trash the place, then unless we increase the squad and the budget, we are never going to keep up.”

The council graffiti squad keeps a data base – whenever graffiti goes up, photos are taken for evidential purposes. “That’s wonderful, but if we catch someone as a result of that record-keeping, then what happens? Well, you could probably guess,” says Mayor Brownless.

There will be a family conference according to Greg. “Maybe an: ‘oh dear, they have issues.’ That will be it, go on your way. We can do everything we like, but we are never going to stop it completely. It’s getting worse because there are more of them out there. It’s a pity, it’s a shame.”

Under the Summary Offences (Tagging and Graffiti Vandalism) Amendment Act 2008 a person convicted of damaging or defacing is liable to a community-based sentence or a fine up to $2000 or both. Being caught in possession of something capable of being used to damage or deface is also liable to community work and or a $500 fine.

There is often confusion about graffiti and urban art – it’s a grey area but essentially graffiti is defined as criminal damage and is word-based while urban art is permission based or commissioned artwork. “You’ve seen some beautiful murals painted on the side of buildings here. I call that street art.”

He refers to Tauranga’s hugely successful Paradox Street Art Festival where internationally acclaimed artists transformed city streets into an outdoor canvas. Street murals, street art or urban art is one of the biggest art movements in the world.

But that’s all quite different to Tauranga’s tagging issue. Is it a recognition thing where offenders just want to see their illegible scrawl up on wall and annoy the hell out of people?

“Possibly,” says the Mayor. “So we shouldn’t give them too much oxygen. I guess it’s an indication of how insignificant their own lives are. The only way they feel they can contribute is to tag, instead of getting off their backsides and making a real contribution.”

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@Slim Shady

Posted on 29-08-2019 13:18 | By This Guy

Where exactly did I say "money is no issue" ??? There is plenty of local talent around that would work for far, far less than some internationally renowned artist. (and as much as I’d love to have his work in our city, I highly doubt Banksy does commissions) You’d be spending the same amount of money over time (if not more) repainting the wall grey everytime someone tags it anyway. It’s the blank wall that draws in the tagger, so why not just spend the money up front and have it painted in a way that discourages tagging in the first place.

That guy

Posted on 27-08-2019 21:21 | By

Yeah, let’s pay Banksy to do something great. Money no object eh? Are you standing for Council?


Posted on 24-08-2019 08:51 | By waiknot

If you don’t own the wall, then it’s not yours to paint. Simple really.

lets talk trashing...

Posted on 23-08-2019 19:16 | By

If you want to talk trashing....let’s point out the "Dance-o-Mat" on The Strand, and the Greerton "yarn-bombing". Needless to say the kilometres of site fencing blighting our CBD and reserves currently. These are all sanctioned "trashings", which make them even harder to swallow.

Non Issue

Posted on 23-08-2019 18:39 | By This Guy

The best way to stop tagging is to commission someone to paint something there instead, like the mentioned Street Art Festival. The main reason people are painting under the bridge is because it’s basically a giant blank canvas. Also if its "beyond the gaze of most locals" then I wager "most locals" don’t actually care. I bet the people complaining here don’t even walk down there at all. As someone who DOES walk by this area a lot, I like to see the paintings there because I’d much rather look at some art work instead of boring grey nothing. (The only tags I hate to see are the dumb little name scribbles that have 0 artistic merit)

Possible solution?

Posted on 23-08-2019 17:07 | By Northboro

A town in the USA painted over walls that were particularly bad, and installed a water pipe sprayer at the top of the building, connected to a motion sensor. Whenever someone got within arm’s length of the wall, water sprayed down the wall. It stopped paint from adhering to the wall and it also wet the tagger.


Posted on 23-08-2019 15:00 | By dumbkof2

i caught some taggers tagging my fence at 2 am accidently sprayed them with a hose. they havn’t been back since

Do what some other...

Posted on 23-08-2019 13:47 | By lpm67

Countries do. Take them to a public square and flog them.

Bravo Mr Brownless

Posted on 23-08-2019 12:32 | By Feruno

I have travelled many Countries, and seen many of the great works of art. Picasso and el Greco do not impress me, but that’s personal. What these ignorant ’artists’ think they can do, is not art, but desecration, the same as the stupid people who do ’hooning’. Neither require skill or intelligence, and the end ’product’ is only admired by their equal piers, nobody else, and yet we tax/ratepayers sit with the cost, not them. What they really lack, is RESPECT, not only for property which belongs to taxpayers, but no respect for themselves. Why does Maori property never get ’tagged’ ?

the artistic graffiti

Posted on 23-08-2019 12:30 | By Mein Fuhrer

is no where near trashing tauranga to the scale that the TCC currently is.

Goodness Mayor Brownless....

Posted on 23-08-2019 11:50 | By Bruja

what a very tense wee chap you are to be sure! Personally the only thing I agree with you on is that it bugs the hell out of me that Kiwis think they need to copy ’loser Yanks’. Apart from that, yes, I wish they’d do more a ’street art’ style and lose the NYC trash thing but an awful lot of people will find it preferable to grey concrete abutments.