THE CITY of Greater Bendigo has bolstered its powers to deal with graffiti despite concerns reforms could stifle public artistic expression.
Councillors voted through the changes on Monday night after city staff revealed spending $52,000 on clean ups last financial year.
They will help council workers decide when and why to remove graffiti and allow them to deal with incidents on private property.
The council will need property owners' permission to respond to graffiti visible to the public, Cr Rod Fyffe said.
"It should be noted that graffiti and public art are two very different things," he said.
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The policy suggests graffiti includes unauthorised drawing, writing or other markings like stickers that deface property.
Cr Fyffe said the council's public art policies are currently being reviewed and public feedback will be taken into consideration.
Not everyone supported the policy.
Cr Dave Fagg said the current wording would likely chill legitimate street art.
"I think its likely effect will be to chill legitimate street art that is not 'authorised' ... and 'authorised' by some public agency," he said.
Cr Fagg said much of the city's successful street art was never authorised by a government body.
Those works had given the artists the public exposure they needed to be commercially successful later on, he said.
"Would that have happened with this policy in place? I doubt it, because under this policy their work would be removed," Cr Fagg said.
Cr Fagg said that some graffiti certainly was offensive and that the council needed a policy for it.
Staff had consulted internally, with various groups including Coliban Water and V/Line, police and with a Bendigo-based street artist, among others, they said in a report circulated to councillors ahead of the vote.
But Cr Fagg said the council had created the policy without talking to people currently creating unauthorised street art.
"Would we design policy for sporting groups without consulting people who play sport?" he asked.
Cr Fagg disputed the idea Bendigo had a significant graffiti problem and said last financial year's clean-up bill was miniscule compared to other municipalities.
Cr Vaughan Williams "absolutely" agreed with Cr Fagg.
"I will be going with him," he said after Cr Fagg floated the possibility of deferring decisions on the graffiti policy.
Cr Matthew Evans also opposed the policy.
Cr Jen Alden said the council was working on several upcoming policies that would further define acceptable pieces.
"When we get to our public art policy [we can] support the artistically inclined to turn their talents to street art, rather than graffitiing," she said.
"For we don't know, there might be more Banksys out there."
A majority of Greater Bendigo's nine councillors voted to adopt the graffiti policy.
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