Each day, eagle-eyed Colin Lilley takes to the streets in an ongoing battle to eradicate graffiti.
“I’m like a trainspotter – but I find graffiti,” the Manurewa resident smiles.
Colin is one of many Manukau Beautification Charitable Trust (MBCT) volunteers who are successfully helping to stamp-out graffiti vandalism through Auckland Council’s adopt-a-spot programme.
Graffiti in south Auckland has “dramatically decreased” says MBCT operations manager Scott Henderson.
“The reduction is due to volunteers like Colin and service providers like ourselves taking a pro-active approach,” he says.
Auckland Council's adopt-a-spot programme enables volunteers to look after an area in their neighbourhood or local community.
Paint, brushes and other equipment can be supplied for free by the council. However, as Scott points out, the need to provide equipment has decreased due to graffiti becoming less common.
"We are on top of the graffiti problem now as we don't actually supply paint and materials so much as people just call us and report graffiti - and that works really well."
Scott says ongoing engagement with the community is key. “Every pair of eyes out there helps us."
Given a council service contract six years ago, the MBCT remove graffiti from council-owned facilities, public areas and private property.
“We do front fences and other areas within a property, if seen from the street.”
Once the MBCT receive notice of graffiti, through the council contact centre or directly, they remove it within 24 hours.
“The adopt-a-spot programme is a good vehicle for connecting communities and creating safer living environments.
“Graffiti invites negative and anti-social behaviour in, so we stay on top of it."
Scott says in the past the graffiti in south Auckland was “physically impossible” to get on top of it but a zero-tolerance approach towards graffiti vandalism has made all the difference.
“It’s been reduced because the council has got on top of it.”
The MBCT are responsible for removing graffiti in the areas of Howick, Franklin, Manurewa, Ōtara-Papatoetoe, Māngere-Ōtāhuhu and Papakura.
Persistence pays off
Colin, 67, spends a lot of time driving around and always takes a different route “on purpose”.
"If I go somewhere one way, I’ll go home another way so I can keep an eye out for graffiti.”
Colin moved to Auckland 12 years ago from Ashburton and says that the work he does is rewarding.
“When we first moved to Auckland the graffiti in south Auckland was so depressing but now there is far less of it and a better community spirit.”
Another volunteer, who did not want to be named, says he used to get “angry” with teenagers who tagged an underpass in his Epsom neighbourhood – until he realised he had the advantage.
“The underpass was tagged regularly. Every weekend there would be graffiti covering both sides of the walls… they appeared overnight.
“I started to get really angry and then I realised I’ve got more paint than them.”
He spent one to two hours each weekend painting over the graffiti.
“They didn’t get the satisfaction of seeing their work.”
Eventually, his persistence paid off and the tagging stopped.
“The underpass was virtually our front door and no-one seemed to be looking after it.
“An underpass can get pretty bad with general rubbish and muck. When I called the council, the woman on the end of the phone asked if I wanted to be a volunteer as part of its adopt-a-spot programme – and that’s how it all started.”
For more information on helping to reduce graffiti vandalism visit the Auckland Council wesbite.