WAG team’s new van
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.