Ponsonby Central has come under fire from the artist community for a mural competition described as exploitative. The competition, initially run through Instagram, offered artists the chance to paint a mural on a wall on Brown St. The 3.6m by 4.8m design must reference Ponsonby, summer and include the hashtags “#ponsonbycentralartwall” and “#iloveponsonby”. The prize is $500 and up to $500 for materials.

However, artists were quick to point out that $500 is $130 less than a full week worked at minimum wage, and blasted the competition organisers for undervaluing the work that would go into such a project. The Brown St wall was painted in a similar competition in 2015 by artist Charlotte Hawley. However, the prize in 2015 was $1000 with $500 for materials – more than the 2017 offering, but still less than the $2000 – $4000 figure put forward by street artists as fair compensation for their work.

Wellington artist Mica Still, an artist with over two decades experience, said that the competition is disguised as an advertisement for a marketing design.

“They want it to be interactive, taggable for social media – they promoted that they would use it as a tool in their marketing campaign,” she said. “What we’re arguing is that Ponsonby Central is an established organisation that would have a budget for marketing and they chose not to use that to pay an artist to do this job or contest – it’s not even worth it.”

“You are actively asking someone to do a marketing gig, and therefore you are saying that is a prize but if you were to do a corporate job, which I believe is what they really wanted, then you would get paid for that.”

Comments have since been disabled on the Ponsonby Central Instagram post.

In a written statement, Ponsonby Central marketing manager Tina Plunkett said that the competition was “a way to keep new temporary art happening in our space alongside side the other NZ Art projects we do and support around Ponsonby Central.”

“The prize for this competition is not intended to reflect the value of art – it is a cash and material prize for a competition that is open to all comers, it is not intended to be commissioned art,” she wrote.

“A pleasing number of people have responded positively and have felt it was a fun opportunity to do something.”

“We feel offering to also provide payment and provide materials on top of that is great extra way to support the community and local art material businesses.”

“This competition is an open invitation to anyone that is interested that includes students, schools and community groups and or any other member of the general public.”