Toilet paper thrown on walls and floors, faeces in soap dispensers, doors damaged, and windows smashed.
Welcome to the demoralising grind of Hamilton City Council team members charged with keeping the city’s community facilities in working order.
Up to 15 cases of vandalism to 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 Council’s facilities maintenance team 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.
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, Maintenance Team Leader Ross 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.
Other recent instances of vandalism include damage to roller doors at Hamilton Lake’s junior playground, Celebrating Age Centre’s shade sail was pulled off the building, and Enderley’s public toilets were found doused in petrol and toilet paper.
Each incident is reported to Police.
“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.”
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.”