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Manukau tags the taggers

It is unusual – almost unheard of – for a local bill dealing with a matter of national importance to be passed by Parliament. However Manukau City Council can now claim that distinction with the passing of its graffiti legislation on 16 April.

The Council was spending as much as $1million each year on repairing the damage and the wider community spent as much as $5 million. The Council’s Manukau Beautification programme does sterling work but was unable to keep up with the scale of the problem.

It therefore asked its City Solicitors to prepare the necessary legislation.  Brookfields Partner, Linda O’Reilly drafted the Act. She noted that throughout the process, the Council was concerned to achieve a practical and effective tool that would help it significantly reduce graffiti in the city.  This required looking at a range of overseas models before arriving at a tailored local solution. 

The Manukau City Council (Control of Graffiti) Act 2008 is only awaiting Royal Assent from the Governor General - basically a rubber stamping of the legislation.  It is expected to come into force, as early as next week.

Business owners who sell spray paint cans will have to store these securely.  This requirement will come in to force three months after assent, so that shop owners have time to prepare their premises for the change. The Act also prohibits the sale of spray cans in Manukau to any person under 18 and the Council will have the power to remove graffiti on private property, if it is visible from a public place. 

Graffiti is not just a problem for Manukau.  In recognition of this, after the Council introduced its legislation, the Government responded to the graffiti epidemic by introducing its own Bill to deal with the problem on a nationwide basis. 

The Summary Offences (Tagging and Graffiti Vandalism) Bill has passed its first reading in Parliament and is now being considered by the Law and Order Select Committee.

While there are some differences between the two, the Government’s Bill draws heavily on concepts contained within the Manukau legislation. It notes in its introductory statement that graffiti vandalism is a serious problem that can create a public perception that tagged places are unsafe and can contribute to the deterioration of the quality of life in certain neighbourhoods.

It is unclear what will become of the new Act, if and when, the Government bill is enacted.

For more information, please contact: Linda O’Reilly, Partner, Brookfields.