Nevaeh McCallum would like to be a mural painter when she grows up but she knows there’s a big difference between street art and graffiti.
The eight-year-old has been volunteering for Christchurch City Council with her dad Ben as a tag spotter and graffiti remover since last year.
She enjoys painting over tags on walls and fences - and has the stains on her hi-vis vest to prove it.
Mr McCallum is friends with some local street artists, including Wongi Wilson and Jacob Yikes, but he says there’s no merit in the scrawls that he and his daughter paint over in their Addington neighbourhood.
“I don’t know anybody that would enjoy scribbles because that’s all it is, there’s no artistic value in it whatsoever. It’s just defacing property. Some people don’t see the problem in it, but if it’s not your property it’s not your property.”
Nevaeh says if she saw someone tagging she would ask them to stop because, “they’re just wrecking the community”.
Residents like the McCallums are the backbone of the Council’s Off the Wall volunteer initiative which harnesses their efforts to combat tagging and graffiti around the city. Run by the Council’s Graffiti Programme, Off the Wall will celebrate its 10th anniversary later this year.
This week is National Volunteer week, so it’s timely to recognise the integral role volunteers play in targeting a problem that costs Christchurch about a million dollars a year in labour, materials and prosecutions against taggers.
Last year over 1000 people from the community – including 150 individuals and many community groups – helped the Council reduce graffiti vandalism.
Val Merryweather, Team Leader of the Council’s Graffiti Programme, says graffiti can lead to a perception that an area is uncared for, sparking other social problems.
“It does spiral from a bit of tagging to the point where people see an area as intimidating and unsafe. But if we can clean up graffiti, or create new murals instead, that tends to make people feel proud of the area they live in.
“We really want to encourage people to take ownership of the problem. They can help us out by reporting tagging, removing it as soon as possible, or by becoming an active citizen and volunteering.”
In partnership with Keep New Zealand Beautiful, the Graffiti Programme has started providing residents with free graffiti removal kits. Individuals and groups can choose an area they will take ownership of and in return they’ll receive a kit.
Council Graffiti Volunteer Co-ordinator Belinda Barrett-Walker says her team of volunteers inspires her. “It’s these people that motivate me to do my job. I find them incredibly passionate people who genuinely care about their community.”