New Zealand clamps down on graffiti

June 20th, 2008 - 11:12 am ICT by IANS  

Wellington, June 20 (DPA) New Zealand stores are banned from selling spray cans of paint to under-18-year-olds and fines for graffiti tagging increased 10-fold under new laws passed in Parliament. A bill raising the maximum fine for what a minister called “intimidating and anti-social tagging of property” to 2,000 New Zealand dollars (about $1,520) was approved late Thursday by a vote of 107-10.

“It is often mindless scrawl that causes great financial and emotional cost, which the perpetrators seem to care nothing about,” minister Darren Hughes said and rejected the claims that tagging was art.

“It is an invasion of private and public property,” Hughes said.

Under the new law, taggers can be made to clean up their work.

The opposition Maori Party voted against the measure, with legislator Hone Harawira saying it would not stop the practice. “Tagging is the reaction of the poor to alienation, anger, boredom, frustration and low esteem,” he added.

The issue stirred heated public debate in January when a 15-year-old youth was stabbed to death while tagging a property near Auckland.

A 50-year-old businessman who owned the property has been sent for trial, charged with murder.

The government defines graffiti vandalism as the intentional, unlawful defacing of property with writing, markings or graphics. It says that tagging is the writing of a stylized signature on a wall or other property and is the most common form of graffiti vandalism in New Zealand.

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