Hutt at Heart

The Lower Hutt beautification project

Hutt City Council has been working tirelessly over the past year on a range of beautification projects across our city.

These projects are not only aimed at creating beautiful communities around Lower Hutt but to also “create places where our young people feel proud to live, our elderly feel safe, and to give individuals and businesses the chance to have their say in what that looks like,” Mel Gardner, our Graffiti and Asset Advisor, says. A community approach to our beautification projects is extremely important to Mel and the team. Beauty is one of the three most influential factors in community attachment, which means loyalty to a particular town or city – some research even shows that a nice-looking neighbourhood promotes good behaviour!

Community beautification is high on our agenda at Hutt City Council. Simple projects range from planting pretty flowers or shrubs to painting planters, benches, sign posts, or whatever is beginning to look a bit tired. However, what has been really special over the past year is our focus on art in public places. This often needs to be a site-specific and site-inspired piece of art, and appears where the general public can see it. We have found that volunteer-led projects such as these are one of the quickest ways to inspire more community spirit, socialising, and action.

We think the greatest example of combining art and the community was when we ran a project in Stokes Valley where young nominees volunteered their time during the school holidays. The scope involved a lot of rubbish collection, painting out graffiti and contributing to mural beautification – with an established and well known artist. Mel managed and ran this project fulltime over that period with very strict guidelines around timekeeping, behaviour and work ethic, while – of course – having fun.

This project was an amazing success! The young nominees families got involved and then the holidays ended with the Mayor presenting the young people who participated with certificates at a formal afternoon tea.

The awe and respect these teenagers had for Mel was really striking. She had instilled some very real pride into them and by talking to their parents, you could see that they were both proud and amazed by their children’s achievements.

Hutt City Council's Mel Gardner with the artists and youth volunteers who completed the Queens Arcade mural
Left to right: Marcus Kepa (participant), Chevron Hassett (artist), Aidan Walbaekken (artist), Kody Depa (participant), Teepa Hori-Kepa (participant), Jacob Tekira (participant) and Mel Gardner (HCC, front centre)

Mel has also been involved in successfully identifying and seeking funding for various mural sites in Lower Hutt – including Wainuiomata, Stokes Valley, and Taita – involving the wider Community in the process. It is important that the communities voices are heard when deciding how any mural that is undertaken recognises what the particular Community is about, what is important to them, and what the important cultural links are.

Here are a few awesome examples:

Mel Gardner presenting to the young people, who helped paint the mural, and their families at the Queens Arcade mural launch
Queens Arcade, Lower Hutt CBD
Artist: Aidan Walbaekken

Mel Gardner presenting to the young people, who helped paint the mural, and their families at the Queens Arcade mural launch.




Well known artict Mr G finishing the 'He kakano ahau ahau - I am a seed' mural on the Wellington Electrical substation in Wainuiomata
‘He kakano ahau ahau – I am a seed’
Wellington Electrical substation, Wainuiomata
Artist: Mr G (Graham)

Concept based on the waiata about children knowing who they are and the power of a seed’s potential, reminding all children they are all called to be great and do great things. It is modelled from Piri Weepu’s daughter’s hands holding a seed, Piri Weepu is from Wainuiomata.


Mata the Taniwha mural on the Konini Water Tower in Wainuiomata. By artist Louis Mikaere
Konini Water Tower, Wainuiomata
Artist: Louis Mikaere Art

Mata the Taniwha






Mural at Homedale, Wainuiomata by Aidan Walbaekken
Homedale, Wainuiomata
Artist: Aidan Walbaekken

On the site of a much loved but deteriorating mural of Piri Weepu and Tana Umanga (which is being re-painted elsewhere in the future) this nature themed mural was chosen as Homedale is the gateway to the Remutaka Forest Park and Coast Road.



Lower Hutt was nominated and came in as runner up for the ‘Most Beautiful City’ in the Keep NZ Beautiful Awards on Friday 26 November. Congratulations to the winners, Dunedin!

Hutt City Council's  Mel Gardner and Riba Greally at the Keep New Zealand Beautiful awards 2018
Riba Greally (Reserves Community Ranger) and Mel Gardner (Graffiti and Asset Advisor) representing Hutt City Council at the Keep New Zealand Beautiful, Beautiful Awards 2018.

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