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Graffiti management program turns TasWater assets into works of art

TasWater is turning its assets into colourful works of art with a forward-thinking community engagement program.

It’s almost inevitable that infrastructure like pump stations and reservoirs will be sprayed with graffiti at some point, but remediation tends to be low on the priority list for many businesses.

In fact, according to TasWater Facilities Officer Rachelle Downey, the Tasmanian utility would only take action if it received a complaint from the public about an offensive tag.

“Generally we would go in and just paint over the existing graffiti, but this creates a blank canvas and it would get targeted straight away,” Downey said.

“I thought we needed to take a different approach.”

A chance meeting with the youth services coordinator at a local council presented the perfect opportunity to develop a new strategy that benefited the utility, its customers and young people in the community.

“I found when I was looking at the graffiti on our assets that we had a lot of really beautiful art on there,” Downey said.

“I realised we could do something with our ugly infrastructure and provide an opportunity for young people to paint something on a big scale.”

The result was a pilot program with Clarence City Council that brought young people together with three local street artists to paint three reservoirs and a pump station with family-friendly designs.

This has saved TasWater money, provided the community with rejuvenated infrastructure and, perhaps most importantly, given the young people involved a chance to express themselves in a more productive way.

“It’s been great to see the outcomes for the young people … their self confidence skyrocketed,” Downey said.

“One of them has even been looking for a tattoo apprenticeship because he has a bit more self-belief in his skills as an artist.” 

As for the assets that were given a makeover? None have been tagged, Downey said.

“Unauthorised entry, like fence and lock cutting, hasn’t happened at the sites we’ve painted,” she said.

“The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.”

TasWater will now roll the program out across the state.

Has your organisation been involved in an innovative or interesting project? Submit a paper, panel or workshop to Ozwater’20, held in Adelaide from 5 to 7 May 2020. For more information, click here.