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Legal action threatened against pothole penis painting safety campaigner in New Zealand

Geoff Upson has been painting the brightly coloured phalluses on Auckland roads since 2018

A transport authority in New Zealand is reportedly threatening legal action against a road safety campaigner who has painted bright green penises around potholes to highlight the danger the pose to road users.

Stuff.co.nz reports that Geoff Upson has been painting the brightly coloured phalluses around potholes in the Rodney area in the north of Auckland since 2018, forking out around NZ$400 a year for spray paint.

Smaller potholes are painted with a circle, with Upson, who posts videos highlighting his concerns to Facebook, saving the penises for the biggest and most dangerous road defects.

The self-styled road safety campaigner says that to date he has painted around approximately 100 potholes, without comeback from the authorities – but now, Auckland Transport says that persons responsible for the graffiti must pay to have it cleaned up.

A spokeswoman for the agency said that repairs are now planned at one location where graffiti has appeared, Old North Road, and that police will be notified of any graffiti there.

She said: “All costs to remove [the graffiti] will be charged to whoever the culprits are.”

Upson, who drives a 4x4 pick-up truck and says he “can’t afford” to pay any clean-up fee, said that police got in touch with him on Friday and he had given a statement.

To date, he has not heard whether he will be prosecuted, but said: “It’s best to be 100 per cent open about it. If I'm going to be charged under the legislation then it is what it is.

“Auckland Transport should stop worrying about prosecuting me for highlighting their failures and be ashamed of themselves for allowing our road network to be in such a state of disrepair.”

However, he added that media reports of his artwork regularly resulted in defects being fixed, sometimes on the same day they were reported upon.

According to a police spokesperson, no report has yet been received from Auckland Transport relating to the graffiti on Old North Road.

The spokesperson added: “Defacing property is an act of intentional damage and is a criminal offence.”

Upson’s campaign seems more about seeking to protect motorists from costs incurred through damage to their vehicles, rather than highlighting dangers that potholes cause to cyclists.

He has also urged that former 100kph speed limits that have been reduced on certain roads be reinstated, claiming that the lower speed limits that replace them have led to more road traffic incidents.

Painting penises around potholes has been an effective way of getting councils to take action to repair such defects, including in the UK.

In 2015, we reported how Bury Council in Greater Manchester had filled in potholes after a campaigner going by the name of ‘Wanksy’ had started painting penises around them – the first such example appearing in Ramsbottom.

> Penis paintings prompt pothole patch-up - starting in Ramsbottom

Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.

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