WAG team’s new van

Kapi-Mana News - - NEWS - By KRIS DANDO

New van, new team mem­ber, new con­tracts – it’s a fine time to be part of Wai­tan­girua Ac­tion Group (WAG).

The graf­fiti- bust­ing women, who have been op­er­at­ing since 2006, are al­ways look­ing over their shoul­ders when it comes to fund­ing. Un­der the um­brella of Porirua Healthy Safer City Trust, money to buy paint, run ve­hi­cles and pay wages comes from a va­ri­ety of sources, mainly con­tracts with or­gan­i­sa­tions like Hous­ing New Zealand (HNZ), Plun­ket and Porirua City Coun­cil.

They have re­cently added an­other, more lu­cra­tive con­tract, with Welling­ton Electricity, to keep the util­ity boxes clean – on top of the 1500 al­ley­ways in Porirua that form their day-to-day work.

‘‘ We’re happy with the way things are go­ing. Our core busi­ness will al­ways be just get­ting out there and paint­ing,’’ WAG man­ager Jay Mar­son says.

They bought a new van in Au­gust and just weeks ago Jas Lee-lo joined Mar­son and Ka­rina Ratana in the team. She re­places one of the ‘orig­i­nals’, Faith Strick­land.

‘‘We’re re­ally happy to have Jas on board – she’s young and en­thu­si­as­tic, fine with get­ting her hands dirty but also knows her way around a com­puter,’’ Mar­son says.

WAG has evolved from just re­mov­ing graf­fiti in Wai­tan­girua. They now cover the whole of Porirua and take in young tag­gers over the hol­i­day pe­ri­ods fol­low­ing re­fer­rals from po­lice, courts and the Min­istry of Jus­tice. They use an iphone to record and map the tags, as well as paint over them.

‘‘We have a lot more in­volve­ment with young peo­ple than we used to. It’s a big part of what we’re do­ing now, even if it means more pa­per­work,’’ Ms Mar­son says. ‘‘Some of them will come with us for two weeks, we try to build a rap­port with them and try to make them see what they’re do­ing. They know not to hit those util­ity boxes – they’re Aun­tie Jay’s.’’

One thing she misses is the Street Makeovers, which HNZ used to hold reg­u­larly. Trim­ming the com­mu­nity re­newal work from the HNZ bud­get saw them go by the way­side – a shame con­sid­er­ing how it brought neigh­bours to­gether and en­cour­aged pride in streets and prop­er­ties, she says.

Ms Ratana says graf­fiti in Porirua is at a low ebb right now but tag­gers keep ‘‘evolv­ing’’.

The group will keep up the fight, how­ever, with the pas­sion still there, six years on, for en­cour­ag­ing ti­dier neigh­bour­hoods.

‘‘We love what we do. It’s never been about the money but mak­ing our com­mu­nity and our town nicer to live in.

Team in green: Wai­tan­girua Ac­tion Group have had a few ve­hi­cles since 2006 – who can for­get good old Bertha, the pur­ple ‘‘beast’’? – but Ka­rina Ratana, Jas Lee-lo and Jay Mar­son say their new van suits their pur­poses per­fectly.

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