Over the past two decades I’ve lightened lives by placing numerous humourous signs in my company’s Wellington office building foyers and on their sides.

One set of signs on one of our building’s wall sits opposite the statue of a chap with a dog, this apparently of some historic significance, in the busy Plimmer steps central city location.

Pre-covid when Wellington received over 130 tour ships annually, it was common to see tourists dutifully photographing one another in front of the statue, then notice the signs and joyously have their photos taken standing between them.

The first read,


Looking at this sign is strictly forbidden.


and the second just along from it bore the message,


Looking at this sign is permitted.

One minute limit.


Readers may not be aware but signage on city buildings’ exteriors require Council permission, albeit given their nature I never bothered seeking it nor expected any problem.

Well to my surprise back in April, while I was in Europe, our Glasgow office received a copy of a letter from the Council (copy below) addressed to our Wellington office and sent on to me then in Budapest.

It read,

“Hello RJH Holdings Limited,

Council has received a complaint about the signage shown in the photos below:

They appear to be on the wall of a building your company owns.

This is the first complaint and there may, in fact, be some history to how they got there since they’ve been there for some years (at least since 2017 according to a Google Street view photo).

If there is, I haven’t been able to find it, so if your company, as building owner, has any record of how they got there, or what was behind them (perhaps they’re ‘art’) being installed, I’d appreciate it.

If not, notwithstanding their longevity, and apparent benign purpose, because a complaint’s been received, it might call into question their legitimacy to continue to be there, and what action, if any, Council might take.

Any feedback appreciated.
Bob Barber,
Compliance and Monitoring,
Wellington City Council.


What sort of miserable killjoy would complain I wondered, presumably he (no woman would bother) being upset at the “WCC” at the bottom, passing the sign off as a Council edict.

In Budapest I drafted a reply and it was duly despatched from Wellington to Bob Barber.

This read,

“Dear Mr Barber,

We have informed the Waipawa Camera Club of your letter.
The Club President, Mr. Chris Gollins, has advised that notwithstanding the club’s by-laws, he is prepared to grant an exemption to the complainant and issue a written permit to look at the sign for up to 3 minutes in a single gazing session.

Please advise the complainant’s name and address so the permit can be forwarded.

Finally, as the building owner, we have no view on the matter.
Matt Gibbs,
Wellington Asset Manager.”

Read below Bob Barber’s splendid reply.

“Hello Mr Gibbs,
Thank you for your letter of 21 April 2022.

I wish Mr Gollins and the Waipawa Camera Club well.

I didn’t know its activities extended so far south but the club’s members are welcome to visit and expand their skills in this fair city anytime.

I cannot provide the name of my informant, but suffice to say they were sufficiently offended, following their first viewing of the signage in question, to be moved to bring this matter to my attention.

On that basis it’s likely that to afford them a permit offering a full and generous 3-minutes viewing might be more than they possibly would be able to handle.

Accordingly I’ll decline on their behalf to accept your offer but the gesture is however, appreciated.

In any event, I made an executive decision not to pursue the matter (unless, of course, I get another complaint).

Bob Barber,
Compliance and Monitoring,
Wellington City Council.”

What’s hugely encouraging about all of this is, as we know, is the general and largely correct negative view of public servants and specially local body bureaucrats, as dullards without a sense of humour. Well, not so Bob Barber. He should run for mayor and we’d litter our buildings with supporting signs.

Back in the 1980s the Council was to all intents and purposes run by the then Town Clerk, a dominant character by the name of McCutcheon.

He was in a perpetual rage at me and the late Chris Stevenson whose famous siren, recorded in so many cricket books during that golden age for New Zealand cricket, split the air every time New Zealand scored a boundary or took a wicket.

Chris and I had humourous signs everywhere. McCutcheon was enraged and would write threatening letters and we would deny responsibility and suggest the other, that is Chris or me, was possibly responsible. More bureaucrats of the Bob Barber ilk would certainly be a blessing.


I well remember your Willis Street sign that read (if memory serves me correctly!) “Matt Rata reads comics/No, he just looks at the pictures”. That was my first introduction to the Bob Jones humour!

Hi Bob, yes they do say a good sense of humor is the sign of high intellect.
Oh that more laughter could be heard.

Priceless Sir Bob. Really missed your humour while you were absent enjoying life. Must be tough returning to Zimbabwe of the South Pacific?

The signs are a real giggle. Good one.

Unfortunatley the “O”ffen’dead’s will already be queuing. ( ..i hope they’re wetting their grass panties).

Chris sign across the road from the basin.
“My wife ran off with my best friend ,and I miss him “

What a top bloke Bob Barker appears to be, lurking in a dullard department long known for having zero sense of humour.

Reading this post of yours reminds me of the fun I had reading your “Letters” book when it first came out – surely one of your funniest! It’s been lent it to many people over the years who also found it hilarious. I took the opportunity to visit it again a couple of years ago for some humour during Arderns prison sentence.

I also have a signed copy of the late Chris Stevenson’s pictorial book on all his Basin signs which I used to drive past numerous times a day. He told me various tales about the backgrounds & repercussions of many of those signs which you certainly didn’t read about in the book….!

Those were the days Bob, when humour, fun, laughter & piss-taking was everywhere. What happened?

This reminds me of this excellent little skit by Joe Lycett about how he dealt with a parking ticket https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Gkiw7zpULo

Talking of Chris Stevenson, this brings back good memories of the colourful signs he regularly updated on his car yard which was at the entrance to the Basin Reserve tunnel….

You can never have too much good humour.

Bob Barker for Mayor!! What say?

Surely the best poster was “Rooting shot in Ngaio. PM safe.”

“Rooting pig shot…..”

Furthermore, Barber’s reply is all in English. For any Council communication, sufficenty unique to be comical..

Bob (if you read this), late last year I placed a large “LET’S GO BRANDON” sign on a small historic building we’re strengthening in central Hamilton (we also own the ex-Deka building next door which RJI once owned), this being a euphemism for “Fuck Joe Biden”, the loud chanting of which was spreading through sports stadiums in the US at the time following their abysmal withdrawal from Afghanistan. It took one week for a complaint to be made to the local CBD Association. “We had to look it up”, they said, “and it’s funny”. I asked if the complainant was a fat, ugly woman who worked for a government department, and they said no. “Ummm….how about a scrawny, middle-aged white guy with a beard working in environmental sciences or engineering?”, I asked, to which they replied “Yes! How did you know?”.

Yes, a great bit of fun and always cause for a bit of mirth upon passing, but also wonder at how many pass it and never bother to appreciate it? More seriously though, with all the cotton wool around everything these days what has always surprised me is the adjacent Fritz, the mut at Plimmer’s feet, which has always represented a tripping hazard, yet is somehow deemed perfectly acceptable. By that, I refer to his tail, which would readily take a person’s eye out or worse should unfortunate happenstance prevail, but the powers that be have obviously never thought to even consider it, and are clearly more concerned with potential offence at signage, or worse, nonsense like ‘cultural safety.’ And how befitting you should mention the former Town Clerk, whose initials were, from embedded memory, “I A”, and whose personal branding was on every sign, in every park and Council facility around Wellington, just in case one didn’t appreciate who held the position of the City’s ‘Top Cat.’ So upon his eventual movement on, all such signs had to be replaced. A very sensible use of Wellington ratepayer money – most fortunately me not being one of them, but also hopefully forever ending (admittedly quite likely wishful thinking) such self-aggrandisement at others expense.

Welcome back Your humor has been sadly missed in a country stagnated by an influx of civil servants quite rightly known as paper shuffles!

Humorous graffiti:-
1 In Wellington ,outside of Government Offices,some wag wrote on an electricity junction box,”Beaurocrats emergency Weetbix supply.” I think it was in Bunny street? But the building was well known as it fronted the old tv programme “Gliding on” I passed this daily heading towards the railway station and reading the wittism always raised a smile
2.whilst in the UK many years ago a large poster was displayed advertising a major forthcoming air show.I think it was at Finningly aerodrome?The poster showed exciting pictures of airborn super jets and display was for a long weekend.Some wag wrote on it “if wet, to be held in the village hall”😀

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