Creating art through cleaning – a Christmas makeover coming to Nelson Street laneway

Last Updated : 16 Nov 2021
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An example of reverse graffiti. Photo credit: Lisa Müllerauh (

A new creative artwork will emerge in the Nelson Street laneway just in time for Christmas.

Talented local artist Ross Liew will be using an artform called reverse graffiti, also known as “the clean art craze”, a process of stencilling art onto a wall by cleaning the dust, dirt and moss off that has accumulated over the years.

Funded by Auckland Council and Waitematā Local Board and supported by the City Centre Residents Group, the artwork, is one of several temporary improvements happening in the Nelson Street area.

Waitemata Local Board Chair Richard Northey says, "We are looking forward to funding these innovative temporary improvements in the Nelson Street area. They are intended to address some of the communities’ concerns regarding safety and aesthetics, as well as bringing an interim solution before the permanent works begin late 2022.”

“The permanent works will result in a greener, safer and more attractive laneway on Nelson Street. This work is part of the regeneration Auckland Council is undertaking in midtown. Many projects are planned or underway in this area and people will start to see improved streets, new planting, upgraded utilities and better public spaces in the heart of our city centre.

To find out more about the Midtown Regeneration Programme visit

The temporary work happening before Christmas includes:

  • Improved signage, markings and wayfinding at key points along Nelson Street to improve safety for people walking and cycling
  • Installation of planters on Union Street to add greenery and deter cars from parking on the footpath, making it safer for parents and children using that route to get to school, and others walking through the area
  • Maintenance along the laneway including and applying the reverse graffiti treatment.

City Centre Residents Group Member, Tika Hasan says “After a few setbacks with COVID-19 we are so excited to be able to get this project underway and have the support of Auckland Council to do so. We are looking forward to working with the local neighbourhood again, and the talented artist Ross Liew, to make some great improvements to the Nelson Street area.”

An online information session hosted by the CCRG will be held on Thursday 18 November at 5.30pm to provide more information about the interim works and share the stencil concepts. To receive an invitation to the session please email

The permanent works beginning in 2022 will include:

  • Improving the safety of the laneway
  • Using high quality coloured paving in key areas on the street e.g., at building entrances or gathering points
  • Planting trees and underplanting to bring greenery to the street
  • Installing planter pots to deter vehicles from illegal parking
  • Upgraded street lighting
  • A permanent mural treatment to the retaining wall in the slip lane.
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