Wai­tan­girua Ac­tion Group hits 10 years

Kapi-Mana News - - FRONT PAGE - KRIS DANDO

Porirua’s graf­fiti-tack­ling team is down to just two, but the work doesn’t stop.

Jay Mar­son and Ka­rina Ratana are what’s left of Wai­tan­girua Ac­tion Group, which was formed in 2006.

Un­der the um­brella of Porirua Healthy Safer City Trust, the group buys paint, pays wages and runs a ve­hi­cle.

Porirua and Welling­ton city coun­cils are the main fun­ders, but Welling­ton Elec­tric­ity also con­tracts the group to keep the util­ity boxes and power poles graf­fiti-free in Porirua and Tawa.

The group started with a lot of fan­fare 10 years ago, and a re­cent in­ter­view with Seven Sharp showed Wai­tan­girua Ac­tion Group was still pop­u­lar.

‘‘They fol­lowed us around for a day,’’ Mar­son said. ‘‘We don’t go look­ing for that at­ten­tion, but I guess it’s not a bad thing.’’

The group quickly evolved from just re­mov­ing graf­fiti in Wai­tan­girua to en­gag­ing with young peo­ple, giv­ing them paint brushes to paint over tags fol­low­ing re­fer­rals from police and Child, Youth and Fam­ily.

Mar­son and Ratana’s nonon­sense at­ti­tude, and their abil­ity to re­late, strikes a chord with the teens.

Wai­tan­girua Ac­tion Group moved to Kenepuru four years ago and Mar­son said she and Ratana kept busy, even if look­ing over their shoul­der for fund­ing could get tire­some.

She said last year the group nearly folded. Fund­ing from coun­cils used to be a three-yearly process, now it’s an­nual.

‘‘There’s just us two, but there’s al­ways plenty to do and we have the con­tacts and rap­port with the com­mu­nity,’’ Mar­son said.

‘‘I didn’t think I’d be here 10 years later, but we are, and I think we’re help­ing to get rid of that stigma about Porirua. If peo­ple want us to keep go­ing, we will.’’

Mar­son spoke at a na­tional graf­fiti sym­po­sium in Christchurch in Fe­bru­ary and Wai­tan­girua Ac­tion Group made it to the fi­nal of the re­gional Air­port Awards last year.

These days, tags can be pho­tographed and loaded on to an app on a smart­phone, putting graf­fiti in­stantly into a coun­cil data­base. Spikes in cer­tain tags and sub­urbs can thus be tracked.

Mar­son said there were hot spots for graf­fiti in Porirua, in­clud­ing Mepham Pl in Porirua East, but over­all it had de­clined.

PHOTO: KRIS DANDO

Ka­rina Ratana, left, and Jay Mar­son are the re­main­ing mem­bers of Wai­tan­girua Ac­tion Group, which started in 2006.

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