Toothbrush Fence in Te Pahu, New Zealand

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The toothbrush fence.

In 2006, local eccentric Graeme Cairns began hanging toothbrushes from a fence along a quiet rural road that runs through the green and rolling landscapes near Te Pahu, New Zealand. Friends and neighbors joined in the fun, and soon even the Prime Minister of New Zealand had her toothbrush hanging in the wind alongside hundreds more.

It’s safe to say that Graeme Cairns is an unconventional man. As the self-proclaimed Laird of Hamilton, a member of the McGillicuddy Serious Party, and a member of the Big Muffin Serious Band, he’s definitely pushed the boundaries of staid normality. So too with his 2006 project: the creation of a toothbrush-strewn fence in the heart of cow country about 12 miles from Hamilton, New Zealand.

The fence began with a collection of toothbrushes previously gathered by Cairns. At the time, he told the Waikato Times: “All we need to do is add a few more hundred toothbrushes and people will flock from all over the world to see it, I’m sure.” He also compared toothbrushes to tropical fish, as they “come in a bewildering range of colors and shapes.”

So he strung up his collection along the fence, and the locals thought “Well, why not?” Soon there were 50 more toothbrushes along the roadside. And not only toothbrushes. Kitchen brushes, electric toothbrushes, and a toilet brush were added. Toothbrushes have since been left by domestic and foreign tourists, as well as a handful of celebrities, most notably New Zealand’s former Prime Minister Helen Clark.

The fence hit the big time in 2007, at least among discerning comedy fans, when it was mentioned in the second episode of the HBO comedy series Flight of the Conchords. The episode, "Bret Gives Up the Dream," features a scene in which two of the central characters are working at a promotional stand for tourism in New Zealand. “Come to New Zealand,” says Murray as he tries to hand out flyers, “It’s like Lord of The Rings. We’ve got interesting attractions: a toothbrush fence, imagine that, a whole fence made out of toothbrushes!”

In 2014, a five-meter section of the toothbrush fence was torn up when a car lost control during a high-speed police chase. The fleeing suspect plowed into the fence, uprooting it and the hundreds of toothbrushes innocently hanging from its horizontal wires. The community soon rallied around, however, and the toothbrush fence was returned to its former glory within a week.