A $20 million dollar investment into the eradication of graffiti in Auckland has come under fire from a local artist who believes the spend is "a huge waste".
In July 2018, Auckland Council awarded five separate contractors a total of $20,061,806 for 'graffiti eradication and enforcement'.
Council say the contracts cover five years, working out at about $4 million a year.
But street artist Jesse Jensen - who is in regular contact with council over their graffiti restrictions which he believes stifles street art - is critical. He thinks the money could better be spent elsewhere.
"You're never going to get a Picasso or a Banksy from Auckland because their work was destroyed in its infancy. You're stamping on these young artists. The ones that are good are leaving Auckland," Jensen said.
"If they dare put something up, it is destroyed. It's a waste."
As it stands, council take a proactive approach to removing graffiti and work to remove any reported tagging within 24 hours of it being reported.
If the tag is particularly offensive, they try to remove it within a few hours.
Between July last year and June this year, approximately 75,000 pieces were removed with each costing between $35 and $50, Auckland Council service and integration manager Duncan McLaggan said.
He stood by council's policy of rapid removal.
"It's always been perceived by residents as something that doesn't add to their wellbeing and perception of safety," McLaggan said.
"Highly visible amounts of antisocial graffiti do have a negative impact on wellbeing and community safety, and there's evidence to support that as well."
But Jensen wasn't opposed to council acting quickly on offensive tags. He just wanted to see more being put into nurturing young artists.
"Keep $2 million for removing the most offensive tagging ... that's scribbled in places it shouldn't be. Give the other $18 million to Auckland artists and let them actually create good work."
"Stop painting over stuff on derelict buildings. It's like rearranging the furniture on the titanic."
The largest awarded contract was for $8,150,775, paid to Manukau Beautification Charitable Trust.
In 2018, 67 people in New Zealand were convicted of willful damage by graffiti. That number was down from 85 in 2017, and 100 in 2016.