Is Coffs losing the battle with graffiti?
By BELINDA SCOTT
UGLIFICATION is the only word to describe the blight of graffiti creeping across Coffs Harbour and Sawtell.
The city appears to be losing the battle against public scribbling.
Recent months have seen an explosion of graffiti on buildings, doors, fences, bridges and substations ? even vehicles.
And relatively few of the new tags and 'artwork' are being removed, leaving some areas looking more like inner-Sydney suburbs than sunny Coffs Harbour.
A number of business owners spoken to yesterday said they had given up cleaning off or painting over graffiti on their buildings ? or even bothering to report new graffiti to police.
One of the managers of ITP Coffs Harbour, Marian Pettit, is furious about the 'brainless' graffiti painters who spray-painted silverfrost graffiti all over the roller door of her newly-painted office just weeks after she moved in.
"If their brains were dynamite they wouldn't have enough to blow their hats off," she fumed yesterday.
"It looks so ugly and it's not just money ? the men who painted (the office) were so proud of it ?now they're making inquiries about special paint."
"It's definitely a negative to have graffiti everywhere," said her neighbour, Graham Inman, the proprietor of the Computer Troubleshooters outlet, who has moved from Young and who has also had his front door defaced.
"I've noticed it more after what happened here ? it's more noticeable in a town like Coffs."
The owner of Souths Dry Cleaners, Howard Davis, said the graffiti problem was getting worse. He said graffiti had first appeared on his sign several months ago and more had appeared last week.
"It doesn't look nice to leave it there ? I know I should take it off ? if I can. It's not only the cost but the time it takes to clean it," he said
The general manager of the Coffs Coast Advocate, James Parker, said it cost more than $200 to remove a single graffiti tag from the building after a graffiti attack some months ago.
"The problem is people see it as a victimless crime, but it's not," he said.
"Perhaps the economic climate is discouraging business owners from tackling graffiti."
The owner of Bizarre Bazaar, Denise O'Brien, said she had reported the graffiti sprayed on her truck but not on the walls and planned to leave the wall graffiti in place as graffiti artists preferred blank walls.
"Look at The Warehouse, it's been graffitied and repainted so many times ? it doesn't work," she said.
One veteran Coffs Harbour business owner said he was tired of repainting the side wall of his shop to get rid of graffiti and now just painted over the graffiti section, even though this gave a patchwork look.
"The funny thing is if some kids had come into my shop and offered to paint a mural on that wall, I'd have given them $100 towards the paint ? I think murals look great," he said.
One businessman, whose shop backs onto three walls of graffiti, but whose own walls have been spared, said he was amazed no-one had seen the work being done, but he quite liked the latest work, a multicoloured effort whose creators left their spray cans tidily in his rubbish bin for police to fingerprint.
A spokeswoman for a medical clinic said the graffiti painters first struck the clinic two weeks after the doors opened and then again two days before the building was due to be auctioned.
Peter Lubans, the new president of Coffs Harbour Chamber of Commerce, is putting the graffiti problem on the agenda for this morning's chamber meeting as well as to a July 17 meeting with local police.
With graffiti often appearing on surfaces like electricity substations, bridge viaducts and vacant buildings, he said it might be possible for the chamber to provide a contact group and conduct a civic pride awareness campaign.
Mr Lubans said a new product called Muck-Off gave fast and effective removal if used as soon as graffiti appeared and fast removal discouraged graffiti, so landlords should supply their tenants with the means to remove it.
Having dealt with the problem of removing graffiti sprayed on his aircraft hangar after six weeks, he said time was often the problem for business and building owners.