Toilet fires, stolen barbecue and ripped-off sinks: Vandalism of Waipā District facilities increasing

Fires in toilets and a stolen barbecue are examples of Waipā vandalism that will cost ratepayers, with the district council forced to increase security.

There has been a surge in repair costs for the council’s community services team which deals with the clean-up.

Council’s acting community services manager Brad Ward said the increase in tagging and vandalism to Waipā public facilities was concerning.

Over the past four months there has been damage to toilets, hand-dryers, changing rooms, and barbecue tables.

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From September to December reported damage included: a smashed ceramic bowl at Thornton Road toilet over Christmas, barbecue stolen from Ngā Roto, hand dryer and sink pulled off the wall at Te Awamutu Event Centre toilets. Kihikihi Domain changing rooms were broken into causing damage to doors and fencing, and Kaniwhaniwha Reserve toilets were damaged and graffitied.

“Our staff and contractors take pride and put immense effort into making our district look good ... This type of unwanted behaviour and seeing our hard work going to waste is extremely disheartening,” Ward said.

The vandalism has continued into the new year, with fires lit in several toilets and playgrounds and the brand-new gate at Bulmer’s Landing damaged from being forced open.

“Most of the toilets in the district are being regularly graffitied and the reckless vandalism of destroying and damaging amenities in public toilets is unfortunately increasing.”

Toilet fires, stolen barbecue and ripped-off sinks: Vandalism of Waipā District facilities increasing

Ward noted recent vandalism appeared to be more targeted and repetitious, with recently removed graffiti or repairs often hit again merely days later.

“The basin in the toilets at the Cambridge Skate park has been ripped off seven times now and these types of cumulative costs are expensive. The hand dryer stolen from the Franklin Street toilets in Pirongia was $1000 to replace the unit, let alone the cost to reinstall.”

The extra repairs are using up budget that could be spent on proactive general maintenance, Ward said.

“Our residents are the ones missing out at the end of the day as we need to undertake these repairs, often to the detriment of keeping our parks and reserves in top shape.”

In an effort to combat known vandalism hotspots, the council has progressed a park security improvement project for Pukemako Reserve, Gaslight Theatre in Cambridge, Te Awamutu Cemetery and Bulmer’s Landing, with more frequent monitoring and upgrades.

Pukemako Reserve’s front gate is now closed Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. However Ward said the large strainer post was snapped on the first night as someone attempted to enter or exit.

Speed bumps have also been installed at Pukemako as part of the security project, with additional sites to follow once pavement repairs have occurred.

Other aspects of the project - including new gates, bollards and cameras – are experiencing delays largely due to product availability and ensuring cameras can be accessed remotely for real-time monitoring.

Ward said the vandalism not only impacted ratepayers, but the stress was mounting on neighbouring residents who are also fed up having to deal with the issues and impacts of this behaviour.

“We’re calling on the community of Waipā to be vigilant about reporting seen damage, and speak to your families and friends about respecting our facilities. This type of activity is demoralising for all of us, and we need it to stop.”

Residents who spot vandalism happening should report to the police on 111, with details such as number plates and vehicle description. Alternatively, if offenders have gone, the information can be passed to police’s non-urgent 105 number and website police.govt.nz.