HEATHER ROY (Deputy Leader—ACT)
: I rise to speak to this first reading of the Summary Offences (Tagging and Graffiti Vandalism) Amendment Bill. The ACT party will not be supporting this bill, for a very simple reason: this legislation is not necessary. It is clearly election-year grandstanding by Labour, and I am sad to see that it is supported by the National Party.
I wonder whether any member in either of the two big parties, or anybody else supporting this bill, has bothered to look at the Summary Offences Act 1981 to see what the law currently is. If people have taken the opportunity to read sections 11 and 33, they will have seen that, in actual fact, there is no change. Section 11 of the Summary Offences Act 1981 talks about wilful damage. Subsection (1) states: “Every person is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 3 months or a fine not exceeding $2,000 who intentionally—(a) Damages any property; or (b)”—not applicable in this case—“Sets on fire any tree or other vegetation.”
If we move to section 33 of the same legislation as it currently exists—entitled “Billsticking, defacing, etc.”—we see that it reads: “Every person is liable to a fine not exceeding $200 who, without the consent of the owner or occupier,—(a) Affixes any placard, banner, poster, or other material bearing any writing or pictorial representation to any structure, or to or from any tree; or (b) Writes, paints, sprays, or etches on, or otherwise marks, any structure.” The only change is that the legislation before the
House lifts the fine for an offence created there to $2,000. The new legislation, in fact, removes the graffiti aspect of section 33 in the current Act, and introduces a new section 11A that makes it an offence to write, paint, spray, etch, or otherwise mark any structure.
So why are we standing here in this House today for no good reason, when we have economic issues to deal with—as my colleague Nandor Tanczos from the Green Party pointed out—and any number of serious issues affecting this country, which are currently being ignored? For that reason I am pleased to see that the Green Party is not supporting this legislation. I understand that the Māori Party is also opposing this legislation because it is completely unnecessary.
There are several other points that I could make around the Summary Offences (Tagging and Graffiti Vandalism) Amendment Bill. I also want to spend some time talking about serious justice issues that the Government could be addressing in this time, instead of this unnecessary bill.
Why do we have a law that does not work, which states that under-18-year-olds are not able to purchase alcohol? Everybody knows that it does not work. It is a farce. Here we are today putting in place the banning of spray-cans being sold to under-18-year-olds, in the expectation that—like magic—that will work. Well, we are not only fooling ourselves but also trying to fool every person in New Zealand, and New Zealanders will not be fooled because they are not idiots.
The second thing is the issue of fines. That is the other big part of this bill that will revolutionise what happens with tagging. Fines will move from the $200 mark to up to $2,000. For selling spray-cans to under-18-year-olds there will be a fine of $1,500, which I guess might have some effect. But when I look back on press releases from just before Christmas put out by the Minister of Justice, Annette King, I see that she talked a lot about the fact that fines did not have any impact on behaviour with reference to speeding and traffic offences. She talked about the number of young people, in particular, who built up fine after fine, did not pay any of them because they could not afford to, then—magically—further down the track had those fines completely wiped. The message that that is supposed to send to offenders is quite beyond me, but everybody agrees that it is not working, either.
Today we have this legislation whereby we stand in Parliament and say what a good thing it is to be imposing fines on our young people who tag—a complete U-turn—yet by limiting the sale of spray-cans we are doing exactly the same thing that we do for alcohol. I would like somebody who supports this bill to stand up and tell me how imposing this measure on under-18-year-olds, and imposing fines, is going to work. It will not work. When I say these things I do not mean to suggest that we do not think tagging is a serious problem—it is. Nobody disagrees with that. But if we really want to make some impact on this problem, then we need to look very carefully, firstly, at what causes the behaviour, and, secondly, at what we can do about it in a positive way.
I have quickly jotted down a few things that I think contribute to the tagging behaviour we see from some of our young people. Firstly, it is often a teenage rebellion, an antisocial sentiment. Frequently there is a component of gang association. It can be, for some, a cry for help or attention. Often it is a result of peer-group pressure. I think that movie and game media storylines and culture often contribute to these behaviours. The last thing, which is a serious issue and was also noted by the Green Party speaker, is truancy and poor school achievement.
So is banning the sale of spray-cans to under-18-year-olds actually going to address any of these things? I suggest that it will not change the behaviour of a single young person. Carrots and sticks are the way that we can deal most effectively with these things. In terms of carrots, particularly for our young people, the Minister of Justice
could have suggested—instead of putting this ridiculous bill before Parliament—supporting a wide range of youth activities and mentoring programmes. They have been shown to work—not Government-initiated ones usually, but those introduced by individuals who have a passion, like Project K. The Government could spend some time and effort supporting those programmes. There has been a lot of talk this year about boot camps. Some people have suggested that they are not boot camps, but when we get down to it, the use of badges, uniforms, discipline, rules, and codes of conduct is actually a carrot that could be used. I would be surprised if New Zealand First in particular did not agree with me on this point.
The Government could have taken the opportunity to turn a very positive light on this whole area. Street art competitions, with prizes at local, regional, and national levels, and with automatic disqualification—this is a stick—from entry forever for those caught tagging, just like we do with drug cheats at the Olympics, would have been a novel idea. Junior leader programmes could have been promoted for our young people from around the age of 13, when they are very impressionable. The New Zealand Cadet Forces partially fill this role, but they operate on a shoestring, with cake stalls essentially funding their operations. The Government could have introduced a rejuvenated bursary scheme linked to student debt, rather than something that has no hope at all of working.
The justice system has many, many problems, and there are a large number of areas I could talk about this afternoon where changes could be made that would improve things for victims and for our communities, and, in fact, offer some hope of rehabilitation for those who have committed the crimes. Rehabilitation is not possible for everybody, but for a large number of people it is. One such suggestion is to have a 24/7 court system and deal with the problems as they arise, instead of making people wait for days, weeks, months, or even years sometimes to come before the courts. In some countries fines always carry alternative jail sentences: people are instructed to pay their fine at the time, and if they cannot, they go to jail. That sends a pretty strong message. It is not just some $2,000 fine that might or might not have to be paid some time in the future.
We could have mandatory non-association orders in the Youth Court that are enforceable by the alternative or suspended sentence given at the same time. A financial value assigned to all sentences, 90 percent of which could be paid to the victim, would make an impact. That would acknowledge that the victim—not the person who perpetrates the crime—is the one who suffers. The list goes on and on, and the ACT party will be rolling out some of these ideas as an election approaches, not making some knee-jerk reaction to a problem that the public thinks is big at the moment.
There is no doubt that tagging is a problem, but this bill will have absolutely no impact because the writing is already in the present Summary Offences Act. It is there, it needs to be policed effectively, and then we might see some progress on this very serious issue.
TE URUROA FLAVELL (Māori Party—Waiariki)
: Tēnā koe, Mr Assistant Speaker. In the midst of Mine Bay—if you have ever been there—on Lake Taupō there is a series of rock carvings over 10 metres high, which are accessible only by boat. The carvings, created by Mātahi Whakataka-Brightwell, depict Ngātoroirangi, who guided Tūwharetoa and Te Arawa through to Taupō over a thousand years ago. The carvings also include two smaller Celtic designs, one depicting the south wind and the other a mermaid. The visual representation of the knowledge and skills of tangata whenua is powerfully exhibited in these precious carvings. Mātahi has worked with our natural environment. He has left his mark, and I think we are all the better for it. What is so different about those works of art, and the tagging, bombing, and stencil art being debated in the Summary Offences (Tagging and Graffiti Vandalism) Amendment Bill?
Is it a case of “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”? Is it an issue around power and control of our environment, or is this bill just about the pre-election hype designed to stamp out youth crime, which my two colleagues sitting on either side of me spoke about?
Māori Party believes that getting tough on tagging is about all of these factors, and more. We see tagging as a form of antisocial behaviour that the bill attempts to redefine as “property crime”. It is a claim to a “place in society” that will become punishable as an attack on the property rights of others. I want to make very clear that our concern throughout has been to avoid falling into the fallacy that assumes that punishment and tougher sentences are the only answer. We have also been alarmed at the way in which the fatal stabbing of a young teenager was minimised, and it has made us wonder whether, in focusing on tagging, we are avoiding the much bigger issue—the culture of violence that exists right across society.
I believe that one of the most outrageous acts of violence this year has been the killing of a young boy who was repeatedly tagging a property, yet so much of the talkback comment has suggested that perhaps killing was a little bit extreme but beating up the kid and putting him in hospital would have been an appropriate response. The Prime Minister referred to this incident as “an unfortunate outcome” of anti-tagging rage. I doubt whether the family of young Pīhema Cameron sees this incident as an unfortunate outcome. As I understand it, this young boy cared for his father, who is tetraplegic. He was literally his dad’s hands and legs. His mother described him as a quiet, gentle, family-orientated boy who liked working on cars and was one day hoping to be a mechanic. I do not generally like to bring up an individual case in the House, but I have been really disturbed at the way in which the act of tagging a fence has cast this young boy and his whānau under a dark cloud, and at how the personal, wider consequences of the crime that has robbed this family of their son have been avoided.
Now, we have a bill before us that has provision for a fine of $2,000 for an offender, and a fine of up to $1,500 for a shopkeeper who sells a spray-can, and that makes graffiti, vandalism, and tagging summary offences worthy of a conviction. We in the Māori Party absolutely acknowledge that the defacing of any property is annoying, it is disrespectful, and it can have a major effect on feelings of community safety. Some of my own children attend Te Kura o te Koutu in Rotorua, for example, and it has been a frequent target for taggers. For the whānau, who are pretty proud of what our kura looks like, the scribbled signatures have been a real hōhā, he mahi whakaparanga tērā. We know too that blatant tagging and defacing of properties often serve to discourage economic investment in that community, but the House would be making a huge mistake if it thought that simply slapping a massive fine on an offender would make a difference. Limiting the sale of spray-cans to those aged 18 years or over to solve the problem is simply dreaming.
We need to be brave enough to look for answers outside of a quick, politically expedient, knee-jerk response that targets young people as a focus of our rage. During the course of this ugly, public debate I received an interesting email from Mr Pat O’Dea of Papakura. In his opinion the hatred that is being expressed against taggers is centred on two things: firstly, protection of property rights, which is argued by those who actually have property; and, secondly, the monopoly of all means of public expression by the privileged. It was a very interesting point of view that challenged politicians to examine their consciences about their need to suppress the tagger subculture. He asked us all to consider what the message was that these messy, often incomprehensible taggers were wanting to share with us. The message, according to Mr O’Dea, was “one of alienation, anger, boredom, societal breakdown, increasing inequality, and lack of resources at the bottom of society”.
Like it or not, Mr O’Dea makes a good point. Other individuals and groups perceive tagging as representing significant community and political commentary. Members of the Wellington Architectural Centre, for example, contend that graffiti contributes to the city’s urban life and to its branding as the “Creative Capital”. They could take us down to “graffiti alley”—a small lane, I understand, between Ghuznee Street and Cuba Street’s Left Bank—and point out the cut-out, stencil, and graffiti art as being an outlet for creativity. The difference, however, between art for art’s sake and tagging, or defacing of property, is very clearly understood. The distinguishing features of responsible art, according to this group, have to do with three things: permission, intelligence, and respect—“permission” to work on a space, rather than marking out a wall as one’s territory or staking one’s claim to that site; “intelligence” in terms of having something useful to say; and “respect” in acknowledging that tagging can make people feel that they have no sense of belonging to the physical environment, and in acting in ways that recognise that. Harsher laws, greater emphasis on enforcement, and community condemnation will do nothing to address the issues that Pat O’Dea brings to our attention. In fact, there is a real likelihood they could make the situation worse.
This bill is but symptomatic of our general attitude towards young people. We have sat in this House and listened to endless kauhau on the evils of text bullying, youth crime, youth gangs, boy racers, youth drinking, and even debate about whether young people should be allowed to vote. The debate has become even more emotive, even more intense, because it is taking place in election year. Victoria University researcher Fiona Beals has suggested that we should not be at all surprised that youth crime debates have already surfaced. Her research reveals that young people are negatively stereotyped in youth crime debates, each election year. Her research has questioned the way in which politicians, the media, and academics have stigmatised certain groups of young people, particularly a young and poor ethnic minority. She suggests we should be finding a less stereotypical way to talk about youth crime, and challenging the psychology around the placement of youth crime as the trump card in election year.
So what are the solutions we could be exploring? The restorative justice model would encourage us to work alongside our young people, providing other ways and means for them to express their social and political views. DJ Poroufessor—Hone Ngāta—from Te Ohu Aka Youth Team, in working with Raukura Hauora in Tainui, works with tagging and taggers around seeing the problem as a cure. Hone is currently working in South Auckland, lending his skills and expertise as a carver, a visual artist, and a graffiti artist, to support young people in their quest for identity. Part of this approach may see businesses and property owners even asking young people to paint a wall, to enable an alternative message to be viewed. Other projects could be more preventative focused, such as anti-graffiti coatings, sensor lighting, and even the provision of designated spaces for young people to express their messages.
Although the Maori Party does not condone the defacing of property, we cannot support this bill in that it is so narrow in its scope and application. We believe that it is unlikely to address the real problem beyond the writing on the wall. Kia ora tātou.
PITA PARAONE (NZ First)
: Tēnā koe, Mr Assistant Speaker. On behalf of New Zealand First I will take a brief call on this, the first reading of the Summary Offences (Tagging and Graffiti Vandalism) Amendment Bill.
Before I go any further I want to make reference to the member’s bill introduced by Mr Hawkins, the Manukau City Council (Control of Graffiti) Bill, because I have no doubt in my mind that if it had not come to this House, we would not be debating this particular bill at this time.
Some people have said in this House that this bill is a grandstanding and simplistic one. That is their view. I think it is an attempt to address a problem that is growing to
epidemic proportions, and it is not just confined to the streets of South Auckland. I say that as a resident of Manukau City who lives in an area continually subjected to the actions of taggers. Although people—particularly the person from Papakura referred to by the member for Waiariki—might believe that taggers are wanting to transmit a message about their frustrations, their boredom, and all those sorts of things that the member described that drive them to tagging, my question is why they do not send the message to where it should be sent and not write it on people’s private property. That is point No. 1.
The second point concerns the example used of a renowned Māori artist and canoe builder, Mātahi Brightwell. The difference between the work he did on the shores of Lake Taupō and that of taggers is that he carried out his art with the permission of the tangata whenua. Taggers do not seek that sort of permission. In a recent news item where a number of taggers were interviewed and asked whether they had respect for people’s private property, the answer was no they did not. In my view this bill is timely. In fact, it is overdue, considering the concerns that were expressed by Manukau City.
I am also quite surprised that the member for ACT highlighted that other parts of our legislation could possibly address this matter. I would have thought that a party that has stood up in the past and said it was the law and order party and wanted stronger laws would support this bill.
Hon Darren Hughes: Zero tolerance.
PITA PARAONE: Those members have been asking for zero tolerance. I am quite surprised they are not supporting this bill.
The bill creates a specific offence and increases fines. But the question has been asked about whether the fines will be paid. The bill does not address that issue—the issue of failure to pay fines—so perhaps in the select committee process it can be addressed.
Clause 5 makes reference to the limitation of the sale of spray-cans to those 18 years and over. How that is to be policed, I am not quite sure. However, spray-cans will not be the only items for sale limited to those over a particular age. I make reference to the tobacco industry, and that law seems to be working. If it is working in that area, I ask why it cannot work with spray-cans. It will be a similar situation with the security of spray-cans, in that vendors of that item will have to ensure the general public does not have free and ready access to them. If vendors can apply restrictions to cigarette packages, then why cannot they apply them to spray-cans? We have heard there was some concern about the practicalities of that; I am not sure about that concern when I consider what is in place regarding tobacco.
I think that what needs to be highlighted is that the judge, when dealing with offenders or taggers who have been apprehended, has to give them a much wider option than what the bill is outlining. I am of the view that this can be discussed further in the select committee process.
New Zealand has witnessed a sad and tragic incident with the passing away of a young tagger. Who am I to judge who was right or wrong, but I wonder whether that tragic event would have occurred if this bill had been in place. That is notwithstanding the arguments for the different sides that have been expressed on the airwaves of our country, on talkback. I ask myself whether that incident could have been prevented.
People have mentioned in this House that increasing the fines may not be the answer. I suggest that, as part of a practical answer to this issue, parents need to be taken to task. They should be held responsible for the actions of their young people. If young people are under 18 years, they are still subject to the guardianship of their parents or caregivers. It would seem logical to me that if they do not pay, then the matter is to be addressed by their parents or caregivers.
In conclusion, like the member who spoke on behalf of United Future, I have made contact with the Mayor of Manukau City, seeking his view on this particular bill. Given that he was at the announcement of it, I suspect that he and his council will support it. New Zealand First is still supportive of the Manukau City Council (Control of Graffiti) Bill. I make the point that although I was not a voting member on the Justice and Electoral Committee, which dealt with that bill, New Zealand First shared a minority view with National in that we recognised the problems experienced by the Manukau City Council in its endeavours to control graffiti within its city limits. We also do not support the suggestion that if that bill were to be passed, then addressing the issue of graffiti would be done on a piecemeal basis. We were of the view that it allowed other local bodies the opportunity to request something similar.
Given the concern about a national approach to this issue, we believe that this bill addresses that particular point. I reiterate that New Zealand First will be supporting this bill being referred to the select committee.
The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (H V Ross Robertson): Just before I call the next speaker, I advise the House that the National Party has split its call. There will be two 5-minute calls. For both members who are to address the House, I will ring the bell when there is 1 minute of speaking time remaining.
Dr RICHARD WORTH (National)
: I commend the last speaker for the quality of his speech. I also say that in the course of this debate we have heard some amazingly bizarre statements. One of the most bizarre, it seemed to me, came out of the mouth of Mr Tanczos. He posed the question “If this legislation works, what would be the consequence?”, and he suggested the answer. The answer he suggested was that former taggers, now retired taggers I guess, would urinate into letterboxes in the neighbourhood. How bizarre that suggestion is.
Then we just heard from the ACT member that there is no need for this legislation. She referred to two provisions in the Summary Offences Act. The first is not relevant. The second is the one that is being amended, extended, and amplified. I share the view of others that the ACT party, a party strong on the rights of private property—or so it asserts—should not be supporting this legislation.
That said, I tell the House that National supports this legislation being referred to the select committee, although we have some reservations about it. A good point to start at, in looking at those reservations, is that this bill sits alongside a Manukau City Council local bill similarly dealing with the control of graffiti. That bill is at the Committee stage. There are significant differences and similarities between the two bills. One of the things the Manukau City bill does is relate only to Manukau City, a confined district, whereas this bill is intended to have application right through New Zealand.
There is nothing too new about graffiti. Historically, the term refers to inscriptions, figures, and drawings found on the walls of ancient sepulchres or ruins in Rome and Pompeii. But we are not dealing with graffiti as an art form; we are, as the heading to this bill makes clear, dealing with tagging and graffiti vandalism. We are dealing with a world of jargon, where words like tag, throw-up, piece, wild style, and roller are in use. This is a problem of some significance. We need only to look at the costs associated with graffiti clean-up in a number of local authority districts. In Wellington City $225,000 has been spent in the last year on anti-tagging work, in Porirua City $200,000, in Hutt City $130,000, in Wanganui District $40,000, in Palmerston North $100,000, and in Masterton $15,000, and Auckland City tops the list with $750,000. This is damage in very high order to what is, substantially, private property.
That said, I think it is right to enter some reservations about this legislation. I would like to pose four issues that I think are relevant and should occupy the time of the select committee. The first is the focus on spray-cans. The reality is that there are other ways
of delivering graffiti. One thinks of indelible markers and other forms of devices of that type.
The second relates to the age limitation. Others have said this, but I just pick up the point that there is no necessary magic in the 18-year cut-off. In fact, in New South Wales they found that 18 years is probably not the correct age limitation to establish.
There is a third issue, is there not, that we are all very much aware of—that is, the readiness of the police to prosecute in these cases. This world we are in is one of offence-creating provisions that require action through the courts and the police to prosecute.
The fourth issue I raise is that by dint of provisions contained in the legislation, community sentences can be imposed that may involve the clean-up of the graffiti work by the offender. But I would like to see the legislation go further, and for it to give property owners an ability, by civil process in the courts, to recover the clean-up costs by way of compensation orders.
PANSY WONG (National)
: What a difference an election year makes, for this Labour-led Government to suddenly pretend that it will actually listen to the people, especially to the local representatives of the Manukau City Council! In Botany—an electorate I will fight vigorously for the privilege to represent in the coming general election—the No. 1 concern is the rising rate of crime, including graffiti.
In 2005, after years of inaction from the Labour-led Government towards the Manukau City Council’s problem of having to spend millions over the years to clean up graffiti, the council resorted to asking Parliament to pass a bill. That bill was sponsored by a Labour MP, the Hon George Hawkins.
Then what happened? That bill was rejected by his fellow Labour MPs on the Local Government and Environment Committee. Apparently those MPs recommended that the bill not proceed on four grounds. Firstly, they reckoned that the existing statutory provisions under the Crimes Act 1961 were sufficient, and they claimed that the introduction of further offences in an area already criminalised under the national law was unlikely to change those priorities. So I am sure my fellow National MPs are looking forward to seeing what has changed since last year.
Secondly, the Labour MPs also believed that a voluntary memorandum of understanding between the council and the retailers with regard to the display and storage of spray-cans, and a possible restriction on the sale of those items to persons under 16, were more likely to give the retailers a sense of ownership of the project, and they believed that that would increase the probability of the project being enforced effectively. Interestingly, the Retailers Association actually supported the passage of that legislation, to make it easier for all the retailers to abide by the provisions. The association supported the legislation, so I wonder where the Labour MPs got their research from.
Thirdly, those members obviously agreed with the Ministry of Justice, or with whatever advice they had, which said that discriminating against persons under the age of 18 was in contravention of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act. So it is interesting to see what a difference a year can make. Suddenly there is a change of heart, and I cannot wait to see what further research has suddenly brought forward the decision in the Government’s current bill that it is acceptable to ban the sale of spray-paint to people under the age of 18.
Fourthly, apparently the Attorney-General’s report also stated that minors were perceived to be the greatest perpetrators of graffiti, but there was insufficient empirical evidence available to confirm that assumption. The Attorney-General subsequently concluded that a rational and proportionate connection between the sale of spray-paint to minors and the graffiti problem had not been established. So one has to wonder why
the Government is now bringing in this bill when that evidence has not been established. The conclusion of the report back of the majority of the Local Government and Environment Committee, including its Labour MPs, was that the Government’s position was that there was no need for legislative change.
We can only conclude, very pragmatically, that the only thing that has changed in 2008 is that it happens to be an election year. That is the only reason that a Labour-led Government is pretending it is listening to a very serious problem that causes a lot of frustration out there. I share the sentiments of some other MPs who have mentioned the tragedy of a tagger who lost his life because of tagging. It is not an issue that warrants any deferral or lapse in response; we have to make sure that such a tragedy does not happen again.
H V ROSS ROBERTSON (Labour—Manukau East)
: Kia ora, Mātua Simich, tēnā koe. Tagging is a crime against the conscience of our nation, and there should be zero tolerance for it. Commissioned graffiti art is something else, and in the latter case, if one was to visit the Ōtara markets in the Ōtara Town Centre, then one would see artistic artwork there that people come from far and wide to look at and admire. All of us would deplore mindless vandalism, and the result can have dire consequences, as we have seen to our peril in Manukau City with the death of a young man.
As a local member of Parliament, I say that this is not the first time that the issue of graffiti has raised its ugly head. I can remember several meetings with the former Mayor of Manukau City, Sir Barry Curtis, when we sought to tackle this problem. Tagging is a disease. People almost become addicted to it and need a fix—just like a P junkie or a heroin junkie. One has just to go into a tagger’s room and see what it looks like; the walls are covered in their etchings. We know that these people leave their homes in the middle of the night to graffiti or tag wherever it takes them—whether it is over a motorway viaduct, on a road safety sign, on someone’s back fence, or on a new housing estate.
Graffiti and tagging are not New Zealand phenomena. I remember back in the early 1990s going on a calibration flight around the Pacific. We stopped off at Papua New Guinea. I was astounded by the similarities in tagging. It was all over the place. It reminded me of Manukau City. I drew a similarity in that respect, because what I saw at that time were areas of high unemployment and low incomes. They were the areas of greatest need—deprived areas. Opportunities existed, but people are a product of their environment.
I turn now to Government policy. We have listened and learnt, and have decided to act now. Congratulations must go to my colleague the Hon George Hawkins, who championed the issue with Manukau City Council. Congratulations must go also to the Minister of Police and Minister of Justice, Annette King, who brought the issue through Cabinet and to the caucus, and to my colleague the Hon Phil Goff, who helped to do that.
Research suggests that graffiti vandalism can create the perception in the public that tagged areas are unsafe, and can contribute to the deterioration of the quality of life in certain neighbourhoods. The objectives of this bill are to redress graffiti vandalism and tagging, by a number of means. One of them is that the bill requires that spray-cans for sale must be kept securely, so that members of the public cannot gain access to them without the help of an employee. Good employers already have controls on spray-cans, but I have heard tales of unethical petrol station owners who do not care to whom they sell them. This area will need policing, and it is one I hope the select committee will look at.
I believe that people have long underestimated the effects of tagging on the well-being of our nation and our people. We, as a country, are known worldwide as being
clean and green. Yet Manukau is where New Zealand touches the world. All our visitors, when they come here, come first to Manukau. What greets them? Tagging and graffiti greet them. “Clean up Manukau.” has become a war cry for those who work to rub out tagging. This legislation is a start on the long road to doing something and to making Manukau and New Zealand beautiful. Tātou, tātou; together, together. Together we serve and together we will prosper.
I will touch on the issue of police involvement. I hope this legislation will give police the incentive to apprehend taggers. I am sure the status quo covered by sections 11 and 33 of the Summary Offences Act and section 269 of the Crimes Act has proved inadequate in bringing offenders to justice. If we talked to police about this issue, they asked what the point was in apprehending a tagger. The legislation had no teeth. It required hours and hours of mindless paperwork, for no direct benefit.
Nandor Tanczos: The police always say that.
H V ROSS ROBERTSON: That may be so, but there may well be some truth in it, as well. If this legislation does anything it sends a message that enough is enough. The people have spoken and we have listened. Education is the key—educate, educate, educate. Be a tidy Kiwi. Keep New Zealand clean. I support this bill going to a select committee.
Tihei mauri ora! Tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou katoa.
MARTIN GALLAGHER (Labour—Hamilton West)
: I will take a very short call. I think that my much esteemed colleague Ross Robertson, who has just spoken, summed up very eloquently and very well the issue about tagging and graffiti vandalism. To that, I must say please add Hamilton.
I also pay tribute to the community of Manukau, particularly to the community workers there. I have been out late, in the middle of the night, and looked at some of the graffiti and tagging issues, along with other issues with regard to South Auckland. I pay great tribute to the previous Mayor of Manukau City, Barry Curtis, and to the current mayor, Len Brown.
In the presence of my esteemed colleague from Hamilton Dianne Yates—and if I may be so bold as to speak on behalf of the Hon Nanaia Mahuta, the Hon Mark Burton, and Sue Moroney, who represent the Waikato for the Government—I say that we want to stand in this Parliament and say that one of the other drivers for this bill was the strong pressure that we received in representations from the Hamilton and Waikato communities. The Hamilton City Council, along with the Manukau City Council, has been crystal clear in terms of identifying this issue as a significant social problem. It has also been clearly focused on solutions and outcomes. It has a graffiti-busting squad that is painting over graffiti. I pay particular tribute to Olly Te Ua of the Hamilton City Council and his team for all the great work they have done at a very solid, grassroots level. I pay tribute to the community workers, who did so much to get a focus on this issue, and who tried to get some positive outcomes. I know that Councillor Daphne Bell, the chair of the community service committee, will be pleased to hear that, and I acknowledge her work and the work of her colleagues.
I went as the member for Hamilton West to community meetings last year in the Melville - south Hamilton area. Recently I went to a meeting in the northern area, and I acknowledge the people who hosted and convened that meeting. We got very clear messages that people want to get on with their lives and they want to keep their neighbourhoods safe and clean. At one level, graffiti was regarded as being at the lower end of crime, but not in terms of the stress on business people, dairy owners, local shopkeepers, neighbours, and other people in that community. They said they want to keep their community. They love their community, and they want to live there and just get on with their lives.
There has been some debate about the issue of art versus tagging—from Ross Robertson, my good colleague George Hawkins, and other South Auckland MPs. Well, anything that is done without the express consent of the owner of the property is tagging. It does not matter what it looks like; it is tagging—it is not done with permission. Things that are not done with permission are obviously not art.
So, without further ado, I say that previous speakers have very eloquently and comprehensively summarised the issues, and I look forward to this bill coming to the Law and Order Committee, which I currently chair. I know that Ron Mark, as deputy chair, is looking forward to this bill. I know that all the members of that select committee will roll up our sleeves and get on with the task. I am sorry to say this to the Opposition, but I have to give a big bouquet to the Government, and especially to the Minister of Justice, for giving us this bill. We had the Prime Minister’s announcement, and now we are getting on with it, and we will complete the work.
A party vote was called for on the question,
That the Summary Offences (Tagging and Graffiti Vandalism) Amendment Bill be now read first time.
||New Zealand Labour 49; New Zealand National 48; New Zealand First 7; United Future 2; Progressive 1; Independents: Copeland, Field.
||Green Party 6; Māori Party 4; ACT New Zealand 2.
|Bill read a first time.
Hon DARREN HUGHES (Deputy Leader of the House) on behalf of the
Minister of Justice: I move,
That the Summary Offences (Tagging and Graffiti Vandalism) Amendment Bill be
considered by the Law and Order Committee, that the committee report finally to the House on or before 21 April 2008, and that the committee have the authority to meet at any time while the House is sitting, except during oral questions, and during any evening on a day on which there has been a sitting of the House, and on a Friday in a week in which there has been a sitting of the House, despite Standing Orders 192 and 195(1)(b) and (c).
A party vote was called for on the question,
That the motion be agreed to.
||New Zealand Labour 49; New Zealand National 48; New Zealand First 7; United Future 2; Progressive 1; Independents: Copeland, Field.
||Green Party 6; Māori Party 4; ACT New Zealand 2.
|Motion agreed to.