Auckland deputy mayor Desley Simpson slams graffiti vandals who defaced historic Auckland mural Parnell Baths

Parnell Baths was defaced by graffiti vandals.
Parnell Baths was defaced by graffiti vandals. Photo credit: Facebook/Desley Simpson

Auckland's deputy mayor says she is "gutted" after hearing a historic mural on Auckland's Parnell Baths was defaced by graffiti. 

It is just one of many graffiti vandalism plaguing the city. Tāmaki Makaurau alone deals with up to 110,000 graffiti incidents each year - which comes with a multi-million dollar price tag for ratepayers. 

Parnell Pools was one of the few remaining intact mural works by James Turkington, one of New Zealand's most prolific mural artists.

Completed in 1957, the Parnell Pool mural is a massive glass chip design, created as part of a major refurbishment of the pools at the time.

Turkington created hundreds of artworks across New Zealand, while many have been since destroyed or painted over, some still exist including glass works at the Devonport Naval Base (1958), the 'Wahine' work now at Wellington Museum, and a mural for the Rotorua Land Court building (circa 1963). 

The mural at Parnell Baths before it was defaced.
The mural at Parnell Baths before it was defaced. Photo credit: Facebook/Desley Simpson

Auckland's Deputy Mayor Desley Simpson posted on Facebook that she was "gutted" that people thought it was acceptable to graffiti the Parnell Baths. 

Simpson told Newshub Aucklanders need to support the council in sending a clear message to those involved that graffiti will not be tolerated. 

"I'm so disappointed for Aucklanders that this happened. Not just due to the cost for the subsequent clean-up but also the impact it can have on our communities," Simpson said.

"Frankly, graffiti is not okay – whether it is on private property or beloved public assets such as the Parnell Baths. The centre was impacted during the recent severe weather events and this additional abuse is not needed."

Simpson said Tāmaki Makaurau deals with between 70,000 to 110,000 graffiti incidents per year which come with a significant cost to ratepayers. Over the past five years, the cost to Aucklanders for eradicating graffiti has been between $4.2 to $4.4 million per year.

"There's also the non-financial impact. Graffiti vandalism can have a negative impact on those living in the area, as it can create a perception that 'nobody cares', attract more vandalism and encourage other types of crime in the community," Simpson said. 

"Communities look and feel unsafe when affected by graffiti vandalism and residents' sense of personal safety and security is significantly compromised in graffiti-affected areas."

The best action against this type of vandalism is to remove it or report it for removal via Auckland Council's website or through our contact centre on 09 301 0101.

Waitematā Local Board Chair Genevieve Sage told Newshub the Board was "incredibly saddened" and "disappointed" to hear about the graffiti at Parnell Baths.

"I passed by there a few days ago and was really torn up to see one of our heritage icons vandalised like that," Sage said.

"Parnell Baths has had a rough season due to flood and cyclone damage, and it is aggravating for ratepayers that now vandalism has also been thrown into the mix which council will need to foot the bill to repair.

"We urge community members that have any information about the graffiti to report it, to help prevent further incidents."

The Parnell Baths are currently closed after a slip during the Auckland Anniversary Weekend floods blocked the access road to the pools. 

"The site has been assessed by Auckland Council’s Senior Geotechnical consultant, which has determined there is an elevated risk to the site and opening in the current condition is not a safe approach," the Parnell Baths team said in February.

"Unfortunately, the decision to open the pool is largely based on the amount of access we currently have through Judges Bay Road, due to the need to provide emergency access for fire and ambulance services, along with essential deliveries to maintain safe operation i.e. chemical deliveries. Also, the safety of our team and our customers comes first."

The baths, which have been operating for over a century, is home to New Zealand's largest saltwater pool.

Parnell Baths hope to reopen this summer.