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One in the eye for tattooing


Further consultation on ta moko practices


Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder but the idea of tattooing eyeballs had district councillors squirming in their seats at meetings around the region on Wednesday.

Rules around eyeball tattooing were included in the proposed Wairarapa Consolidated Bylaw, but it may not make the final cut after South Wairarapa District Council adopted a more flexible approach than its neighbours.

Eyeball, or scleral, tattooing involves injecting dye between layers covering the white of the eye.

Masterton and Carterton councillors backed banning the practice in the consolidated bylaw, unless it is carried out by an ophthalmologist, or eye surgeon.

South Wairarapa doesn’t want to ban the practice outright at tattoo parlours, environmental services manager Shane Sykes told councillors on Wednesday.

“But they would have to satisfy council officers that they are capable in that process,” he said.

“And there would be a very, very high bar … in my view it would almost be impossible to achieve it.

“And we would still have regulatory control in that area.”

While the idea would not have general appeal, it would be attractive to some consumers, he said.

“Not this consumer,” Deputy Mayor Brian Jephson said.

Council group manager planning and environment Russell O’Leary said the blanket ban was not considered an appropriate response.

“We like to consider things on their own merits,” he said.

“It’s about individual choice, even if something is a bit different and new.”

After feedback on the issue, it will be the subject of further consultation by the three councils.

This is also the case with traditional Maori ta moko practitioners, not originally included in the bylaw.

It is proposed to make it explicitly exempt from the bylaw, providing it is undertaken by artists authorised by a marae in the Wairarapa region in accordance with tikanga.

Though there were titters from Carterton district councillors as the topic of eyeball tattooing was raised, Hurunui-o-Rangi Marae representative Mihi Keita Namana was grateful that the council would be consulting further on ta moko practices.

“Bylaws on ta moko need to be consulted on widely with people who practise this art,” she said.

“I’m not sure how we could make a decision about something which is a cultural heritage [practice] without consulting.

“I don’t know about eyeball tattooing though.”

Councillor Ruth Carter explained that this was why the councils decided to exclude the amendment from Wednesday’s voting pending further consultation.

“That is one of the main reasons we wanted it to be separate and not to be a decision made just by council,” she said.

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