Two professional Masterton tattooists are demanding urgent law changes in an industry they say is swamped with amateurs who leave infection and the risk of serious disease in their wake.
Clinton Thornton, who opened his Tattoo U studio decades ago in Lansdowne, said the industry had experienced a massive surge in popularity since he first began as a professional tattooist in the town and yet there had be no corresponding changes made to health regulations, tattooist certification or age bars on customers.
"We're seeing people every day who've been infected after getting home tattoos and there's nothing to stop a 5-year-old of fit mind getting tattooed in Wairarapa. It's bizarre and bloody dangerous at the same time."
He said all customers wanting tattoo or piercing on his premises must be 18 or older or must otherwise have parental consent.
Mr Thornton, who like Harley Davies has worked in skin art professionally both here and abroad, said the equipment used at his Masterton studio was imported from America and Europe and included thousands of dollars' worth of tattoo machines, autoclaves and piercing equipment.
He said he was planning to restart a laser tattoo removal service as well in the near future, which also demanded professional health standards and expertise.
Mr Davies said there were now low-quality tattoo machines being sold through online auction sites that "just anybody can pick up" and the entry threshold to the industry was far too low to be safe.
"And the only thing the Ministry of Health has put a stop on is the ink being sold online.
"There are some home tattooists who are doing good, clean work, but then there are more who are real risks for anybody they touch."
Mr Davies recalled a man in Auckland whose tattoo had become so badly infected he was forced to undergo an amputation and eventually died from blood poisoning.
"That's the kinds of risks people are taking out there with some backyard scratchers. I know there are bylaws in Auckland and Napier but there are none here. We welcome health checks at any time and the laws need to be changed now."
He said there were far more stringent industry regulations in Australia and New Zealand lawmakers must follow suit.
"There are at least 20 studios around the country trying to get the laws tightened but politicians and councillors just don't seem to be taking us seriously ... Someone sooner or later is going to pay the cost."