Wellington Scoop

Scoop Dogs investigate: graffiti replacing roses and rosemary


by Neil Douglas
The City Council’s bare earth policy is encouraging Wellington’s graffiti artists and costing rate-payers. Scoop Dogs Henry and Harriet sniffed out this big new Asian meal (?) tag on their morning walk around Thorndon.

A century ago philosopher David Hume argued that ‘beauty in things exists in the mind that contemplates them’. Well, that was before the spray can was invented. Unless it’s a Banksy mural or homage to Ian Curtis, modern graffiti is an eyesore in most people’s mind.

In Wellington, provide a public space and it’ll often get sprayed in graffiti.


This new ‘art’ space has been created above the Thorndon Motorway along the walkway just before the Hill Street overbridge. Up until late November, the fence was covered with rosemary bushes and rambling roses. The roses had a habit of dangling down and no doubt some disgruntled walker alerted the Council to ‘Health and Safety’ issues of straggly thorns. Rather than prune with secateurs and loppers, which might have taken say twenty minutes, the Council contracted the heavy mob in. It took a couple of arborists to hack everything down to ground level and put the lot through a wood chipper.

Once exposed, the wooden fence lasted less than two weeks before it was sprayed in graffiti. It adds to the stairway fence on the other side of Hill Street and a wall 50 metres north which get regularly sprayed in graffiti necessitating a Council paid re-paint.

In the case of the walkway fence, surely it would be greener and cheaper long-term to re-plant it with some bushes and do an occasional three month prune?

UPDATE 7 December

The fence has now been painted beige! We returned from three days maintaining our Wairarapa nut trees to see the fence repainted to match the units behind. But it’s such a tempting site for graffiti ‘artists’ that it’s unlikely to stay beige for long.

Neil Douglas (owner of the Scoop dogs) is a Wellington economist who is also a nut farmer.


  1. Dr Feelgood, 6. December 2017, 10:54

    What a handsome pair of dogs!

    With few exceptions, “graffiti” is a euphemism for “vandalism”. Now the council has created this platform for expression by the artistically challenged, I wonder what they intend to do with it. Perhaps some lovely rambling rose bushes would do the trick? I’ll bet they’ll go for some nice razor wire to build on the visual theme. A true contribution to the Wellington image.

  2. Citizen Joe, 6. December 2017, 11:45

    A moment of googling and an origin and meaning for urong emerges. It’s Filipino/Malaysian/Indonesian and means to step back, retreat or move. The connection with pork is less clear but might refer to a malaysian pork meal or a land reclamation project in Singapore! Decidedly unsure about the last word (Marph?)

  3. Dr Feelgood, 6. December 2017, 12:51

    It’s the “Marph” part that’s got me. I’m tempted to think the artist is reflecting on the failure of privitisation to address the current state housing crisis. I guess we’ll never really know.

  4. Rachael Findlay, 6. December 2017, 13:44

    I just walked past this fence and it’s been painted over the same grungy colour as the block of flats in the background. A blank canvas anyone?

  5. Barbara, 6. December 2017, 13:52

    No we won’t ever know what the meaning was now because the Council has painted over it. Thank you but it is going to be expensive keeping that up so perhaps let it grow back to the lovely yellow rambling roses that were there.

  6. Jonny Utzone, 6. December 2017, 14:09

    Whose fence is it anyway? It looks like the fence belongs to the block of units on Hill St? So it should be their job to paint it and not the ratepayers. The verge on the Motorway side? Well that could be public space but there again it might be owned by the block of units up to the walkway. The Scoop Dogs should seek out the title deeds and do some detailed sniffing.

    My next door neighbour Jim (god bless his soul) on Tinakori Rd took it upon himself to paint over graffiti wherever it was daubed. Nowadays, the diminution of private initiative and pusillanimous scapegoating of the ‘Council’ means that when the public space gets trashed, we moan about ‘the Council’ not doing their job and then when they rectify we moan about the cost to ratepayers.

  7. Richard MacLean, 6. December 2017, 18:14

    Just by way of clarification, the City Council was not involved with the removal of vegetation in this area – it’s part of the motorway corridor so it’s controlled and maintained by NZTA. However the Council is working with NZTA to see if there are quick and easy ways to deal with the graffiti. Richard MacLean WCC Communications

  8. Dr Feelgood, 6. December 2017, 18:41

    I’m thinking the ‘coils of razor wire’ solution just came a step closer…

  9. Driver, 6. December 2017, 18:45

    Quick and easy way to deal with graffiti. Bring back the rosemary and the climbing roses.

  10. Neil Douglas, 7. December 2017, 8:01

    Richard M, thanks for attributing the bush destruction to NZTA. I now know why the hebe and rosemary bushes on the opposite Hill Street motorway off-ramp also got the chop and I can’t see why they had to go either (when pruning would suffice). Provides another reason why SH1 should end at the ferry terminal.