21 July 2024

Vandalism costs ratepayers $395k a year

Demoralised team faces 15 weekly cases of damage

Toilet paper thrown on walls and floors, faeces in soap dispensers, doors damaged, and windows smashed.

Up to 15 cases of vandalism to Hamilton City Council buildings are reported every week. That damage cost Hamilton ratepayers around $395,000 in 2018/19 and didn’t include graffiti removal or staff time.

“The money we spent dealing with vandalism last year is equal to the rates for about 160 residential properties. It’s money that could have gone towards new footpaths or a neighbourhood playground,” says Maintenance Team Leader, Ross Brunton.

It is demoralising grind of the Council maintenance team that includes 10 full-time staff who keep 348 premises across the city in working order, many of them community facilities such as halls and public toilets.

Damaged baby change table
Fire damage to a baby change table in a public toilet

Council’s Maintenance Supervisor, Jade Murray says more and more of her time is spent dealing with deliberate destruction to public facilities.

“It’s just so upsetting,” she says. “Especially when the Council renovates a facility and has it looking fantastic, only for a small group of selfish people to go out and wreck it for the rest of us.

“We spent $260,000 rebuilding Swarbrick Park changing rooms following arson, and in the first few days of them opening the new hand dryers were destroyed. I just don’t understand why people behave like that.”

After 30 years in the industry, Brunton has become hardened to how community facilities can be treated.

“We’re trying to provide Hamiltonians a high standard of facilities, so it’s disappointing when they get ruined by a handful of people,” he says.

Heavy duty toilet roll holder
$480 heavy duty toilet roll holder that HCC has been forced to use

The damage to soap and toilet roll dispenses and cisterns has become so frequent, the Council has introduced custom-built steel covers with heavy duty padlocks.

“These come at a cost of $480, which is three times more expensive than the standard model. They’re less visually appealing and have the potential to make people feel unsafe.

“If someone walks into a public toilet and sees the toilet paper on lockdown, they start to look over their shoulder,” says Ross.

“But we don’t have an option other than try and prevent the vandalism from occurring again.”

As each vandalism case is reported to the Police, the Council advices if you see vandalism occurring, call Police on 111 .

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