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Newsworthy: Vandalism - culture or vandalism

10 March 2006 - No. 64

Newsworthy: Vandalism - culture or vandalism

Graffiti is one of the curses of an urban community. Curiously (and unfortunately) the response of local government to the issue is uncoordinated.

In Auckland City The Zero Tolerance To Graffiti Programme has been in operation for three years and has been responsible for cleaning over 60,000 graffiti sites. It is a highly effective programme worth emulation by others.

The volunteer programme of Auckland City now has over 400 members and the number is growing every week.

During the four months from September to December 2005, over 374 litres of paint were provided to the volunteers along with brushes and graffiti remover. During the same period, Auckland City's graffiti prevention team cleaned a further 6,493 sites across the city.

Graffiti or "graf" as it is called is one of the four elements of hiphop culture. The other three are - rapping, DJ (spinning the discs) and break-dancing.

The critical aspect of graffiti control is the immediate removal of the tag so that the tagger is denied notoriety for his work. Tagging is a "boy thing".

Unlawful graffiti constitutes the offence of wilful damage under the Summary Offences Act with a maximum fine of $2,000 or three months imprisonment. It is an offence arrestable without a warrant.

Criminal proceedings are clearly one mechanism of dealing with offenders but arguably the better course is civil proceedings against the tagger, seeking compensation (often running in thousands of dollars) for the damage. Those compensation costs could be recovered in the Disputes Tribunal.

The next Governor General Dame Silvia Cartwright has committedly served New Zealand since 2001 her term completes on 4 August 2006.

Whilst the Government is strong on its assertion of consultation, its track record certainly in dealing with the opposition parties belies that assertion.

In the hunt for a successor, I would pick four possibilities: * Rob Fenwick - environmentalist, businessman and Chancellor of the Order of St John * Professor Mason Durie - Assistant Vice-Chancellor Massey University * Judge Anand Satyanand - former Ombudsman and Registrar of Pecuniary Interests in Parliament * Air Marshal Bruce Ferguson - departing Chief of the Defence Force

Is there a power crisis - not yet On 1-3 March 2006 the power conference was held in Auckland.

There is a real risk of a significant power shortage which the Government seems determined to down play. A clear conflict has emerged between the views of the Government's two biggest power companies on one hand and the Electricity Commission on the other.

Those who believe in the likelihood of serious power shortages consider that the model of the Electricity Commission is likely to be overly optimistic because it assumes rational behaviour by the generators. There is also suspicion that some of the input data regarding the availability of thermal backup stations is suspect.

The following exchange (taken from questions for oral answer on 2 March 2006) highlights the contrasting positions:

5. Hon Dr NICK SMITH (National-Nelson) to the Minister of Energy: Does he agree with the statements by Meridian Energy Chief Executive Keith Turner that electricity supply is "very tenuous" and: "This winter is the tightest we have ever had as a nation", the statement by electricity industry consultant Bryan Leyland that "the risk of a severe shortage is quite high", and the supporting statements by Genesis Energy Chief Executive Murray Jackson; if not, why not?

Hon DAVID PARKER (Minister of Energy): The Electricity Commission has a published set of assessment criteria that are intended to assure supply against a 1 in 60-year drought. I am advised that, based on those criteria, although lake levels are well below average the probability of a power shortage this winter is low.

Political Quote of the Week "If Thomas Edison invented electric light today, Dan Rather would report it on CBS News as "candle making industry threatened". - Newt Gingrich - US Speaker of the House 1995-1999

Richard Worth

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