The beautification of New Zealand toilets

Now many town councils are allowing the walls of these public necessities, once plain or half-hidden as if in shame, to be used as canvases for local artists. As a result, many of these unmentionables now announce their presence with brightly coloured murals. This beautification of the basic bog includes scenes of boats, bees, seascapes, landscapes history, flowers and native birds and sailing ships. It's enough to take your mind off the job. One of the outstanding ones is at Waipu, where a sizeable complex is richly adorned with scenes depicting the town's strong connection to Scotland and the arrival of refugees from the Highland Clearances. At Opononi the loos are draped in elegant vines and snap dragon flowers. Covering the walls of the public privy in the South Island village of Tuatapere, sheep are being shorn in a shearing shed. The Tapawera toilet in the Upper Motueka River Valley depicts an old prospector panning for gold; at Darfield, south of Christchurch, the W.C is wrapped in an icy scene of the snow-covered Southern Alps; and at Snells Beach the toilets are adorned with a giant fantail among palm trees. In places it is not just the painting of old walls that has turned the tide but the actual architecture. One example is in Matakana near Warkworth. Even if not required for their function the sculptural faces and form of the town's amenities draw thickets of photographers and much comment. Positioned for all to see, they have become a focal point for the town. I am also much taken with the new 'Wee Toilet' at Pahia designed to make punters laugh with its wonky sign and stainless steel toilets on its roof sprouting spikey grasses. Another sprouting we could well see before long soon is that of Super Loos, a concept in which you spend more than a penny for aesthetic and ultra-clean facilities that include showers. The one in Taupo led the way. I've seen another in Cambridge in a colonial style cottage on the edge of Victoria Square. But not all classy toilets are new. As an integral part of the Peel Street scene in Gisborne, for instance, the Edwardian loos in the middle of the road are elegant and elaborate in structure sporting two glass domes as a ceiling. If it hadn't been for a vigorous 'save-the-toilets' campaign in the 1990s, they would now be flushed away. Instead they are restored and still in use. Jill Malcolm is a former editor of Motorhomes Caravans & Destinations and author of the Great Kiwi Motorhome Guide.
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