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His own tag of tricks

The Aucklander
11 March 2011

By Joanna Davies

There is one thing that will get taggers to put down their cans. And in Massey East they have found it, Joanna Davies hears.

The fence is covered in a thick coat of dark green paint. Matt Harper is handy with a paint brush - he's painted this fence many times in the past 18 months.

"I was down here every five minutes painting out the tagging," says the Massey East resident, who lives near Lendich Reserve, something of a ground zero for graffiti in the area.

"My wife and I often help with the local stream restoration and cleaning up the reserves ... I spoke with some kids who have tagged around here. They told me they didn't tag on artwork and the painted power boxes because they respected the art, so they targeted fences instead."

With that information, Mr Harper decided on a new approach to fix the ugly nuisance.

"We had tried planting flax bushes in front of the fence, but they all got ripped out. I was getting frustrated with the red tape that you have to get through to fix these problems, so I decided to get the neighbours together and we did something ourselves."

Now, across the top of the green fence, hang 35 paintings by children who live around the reserve, and none has been tagged.

"We had about 40 kids come down here to paint, and a dozen mums and dads to help put them up," says Mr Harper.

With paint donated by Resene and with help from the local neighbourhood support group, Mr Harper and his wife, Jan, he organised the painting day.

"I think we spent a total of $20 on fruit kebabs for everyone who helped.

It's a huge success. Some of the kids who came along know people who tag down here so, hopefully, they will tell the culprits to stop tagging," says Mr Harper.

"This is the kids' park, and we want them to take ownership of it and look after it."

Jenny Tanner, a community development coordinator for Massey and Ranui, says it is the first she has heard of local residents taking the issue into their own hands.

"I think Matt really wanted to get something positive done," she says. "He was getting frustrated with the process to get these things done when you go through other agencies, especially after all the flax plants were ripped out.

"I do think it will give hope to other people and show that things can be done about it."

Mr Harper says he will still keep a close watch on the fence to make sure it stays tag-free.

"I hope it works because the kids put in a lot of effort."

Sketching a graffiti plan

Auckland Council officers are looking into forming a graffiti management plan for the entire region, by working with local boards and organisations that target graffiti vandals. If the Community Safety Forum approves the plan, it will be a guide for graffiti prevention across Auckland.


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