The council is asking Aucklanders to be vigilant and report any suspicious behaviour to the Police, following a spate of thefts and vandalism to public art pieces across the region.
Chair of the Parks, Arts, Community and Events Committee Councillor Alf Filipaina says he is disappointed with the blatant disregard for public property.
“It is beyond frustrating that these incidents keep happening, and that those committing these acts have no pride in their city, or regard for their fellow Aucklanders.
“We are blessed to have unique art pieces across the region that we can visit freely. This is not a privilege enjoyed in other places, and it upsets me that these opportunities are not only being taken for granted by some, but that through these mindless acts, they are also being taken away from those who would appreciate them.
“It simply has to stop.”
Most recently, the bronze figurine and base from The Valkyrie Fountain in Auckland Domain were stolen, with the supporting marble pillar severely damaged; and earlier this month, the Ōwairaka - Statue of a cloaked woman by Christine Hellyar was damaged beyond repair.
Other works that have recently been victim of theft or wilful damage include Francis Upritchard’s Loafers, The Five Rams in Myers Park and the Matakana War Memorial.
“We’re very fortunate that here in Tāmaki Makaurau we have a wonderful public art collection that is enjoyed by Aucklanders and visitors alike,” says Manager Public Art, Hayley Wolters.
“Unfortunately, over the past few months we’ve had a number of our unique pieces either stolen or vandalised, which is heart-breaking.
“Following two years of Covid-19 disruptions, the council’s budgets are already under pressure, and any costs to repair or replace artworks are adding further strain and diverting investment away from other important areas.”
The council is currently working with the Police to identify those responsible and is appealing to the public for more information.
“We are committed to ensuring our heritage collections are kept safe, and we really appreciate the support we get from Aucklanders when it comes to doing so,” says Hayley.
“Please, if you know anything about the theft from the fountain or any other suspicious behaviour, please contact the council customer service team or the Police.
Police are advising the public to contact 111 immediately if they witness an offence taking place or to contact 105 if they have any information on the whereabouts of stolen property.
Graffiti levels also on the rise
Reports of graffiti across the region are also increasing.
While the council prioritises the quick removal of graffiti – particularly offensive graffiti, the ability to do this is being impacted by Covid-19 related staff shortages and council service providers playing catch up following periods of lockdown.
In this financial year to date, there has been over 66,000 reports of graffiti across the region, with 2117 requests for service (RFS) made to the council. In the last financial year, there were just over 70,000 reported incidents, but in comparison, only 1375 requests for service.
Auckland Council Manager Business Delivery Grant Muir says, “The best way to discourage graffiti vandalism is to remove it swiftly. Graffiti which is left in situ can be interpreted by vandals as tacit approval.
“Over the past year or two, we have seen an increase in graffiti incidents, which can partially be attributed to periods of L4 lockdown, during which only offensive graffiti could be removed as an essential service.
“This caused a build-up of graffiti and meant that our service providers were dealing with backlogs when we returned to full-service levels.
“During these periods, it is likely graffiti was more visible to the public as we could not always meet our normal 24-hour turnaround times for eradication.
“The spike in graffiti numbers can also be attributed to schools being closed for prolonged periods, resulting in youngsters spending more time on the streets, and more incidents being reported to the council due to more people working from home.
“Our teams continue to work hard to remove graffiti quickly, with the aim of eradicating any offensive graffiti within two hours of it being reported to us.
“We urge Aucklanders to report any graffiti vandalism on public land or private property facing the road to the council using our online Report a Problem tool or by calling the contact centre on 09 301 0101. Our teams will then either remove it, or report it to the relevant asset owner to remove.
“If graffiti appears within the motorway corridor, it can be reported directly to Waka Kotahi New Zealand Transport Agency for removal."