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Paeroa man Barry Jenkinson has been ridding the town of tagging for close to a decade. PHOTO: KELLEY TANTAU

Cleaning Paeroa one tag at a time

Barry Jenkinson has already cleaned up two lots of graffiti this morning.
They were both on a fence down one of Paeroa’s back roads, and he always tries his best to get to them quickly.
For around eight or nine years, 80-year-old Barry has been ridding the town of tagging, a task that he doesn’t do for the praise.
But Barry’s good deed hasn’t gone unnoticed, with bystanders saying thanks, supporters donating paints, and now – a district council Onya award for his service to the community.
“I was apprehensive [about the award] to start off with, but my partner’s nieces came down from Auckland, and they encouraged me to get it,” he says.
Barry’s partner Mae passed away around eight months ago, and he says she always supported him getting up early to remove the graffiti around town.
He thinks his first time was wiping away tagging that was on a power box, and, more recently, he hastily got rid of graffiti that had been painted on a water tank at the Paeroa Domain, removing it before the annual Lions fireworks event kicked off and thousands of people poured in.
“It just annoys me,” he says of the vandalism. “It is very disappointing. Some of it you can remove with methylated spirits, and some you have to paint over.”
Barry, who is a “born and bred” Paeroa man, is a painter-decorator by trade.
When he left school at 15, he was a bricklayer, but after six months, he started painting and decorating and has been doing it for more than 60 years.
He has a big collection of paints – most of which are donated – and he does the selfless chore of removing graffiti for free, though recipients sometimes return the favour with a free lunch.
Members of the public tell him where to find the tagging, and sometimes he sees them while driving around town.
Over the recent Labour Day long weekend, he cleaned up 10 different tags. On a normal week, he averages around three or four.
“I try to do it when it’s fine, and I like to get it off as soon as possible,” he says. “It has slowed down a lot in the last three-four weeks.”
Barry says the Onya award, given to him at a special ceremony on November 9, is the first award he has received for his community service.
He wanted to thank those who nominated him for the award, and those who turned up to celebrate with him on the night.
Hauraki District Council said it removed graffiti on council-owned assets, such as public toilets, bridges, and in parks. In the past six months, graffiti and vandalism in general had escalated, particularly in Paeroa, with staff spending “hundreds of hours” each year to stay on top of it.
Without Barry doing his work, the town would be noticeably worse off when it came to tagging, Mayor Toby Adams said.   
“We get that graffiti is a form of self-expression, but tagging and vandalism costs everyone. 
“We’re very proud of Barry’s commitment to his community and the difference that he makes. We can all learn a lot about that sense of duty to our community and showing respect for our place in it.”