GRAFFITI will be heritage listed and a register set up to safeguard popular street art under Sydney City Council plans.
Policies for tagging and murals are under review to "examine international best practice in commissioning, maintaining, conserving and decommissioning street art''.
The council wants to set up a "mural register'' which would include a map of street art, photographs and a "statement'' of what the mural means to the local environment and community.
"The city recognises the artistic and social value of murals and street art,'' the report said, admitting while it would be controversial, the images added to the city's vibrancy.
"Public artworks including murals, street art and some graffiti make a valuable contribution to the city's identity and social cohesion,'' the report said.
"Such artworks are associated with innovation and creativity, as well as adding to the richness and diversity of the city's cultural life.''
The mural that sparked the review, Three Proud People at Newtown in Sydney's inner west, is to be heritage-listed after it was threatened with demolition to make way for a railway line.
The full report will come before the council by the end of the year and will look at ways to protect significant murals and street art.
The mural - a reproduction of a photo taken at the 1968 Mexico Olympics, when Tommie Smith and John Carlos, supported by Australian athlete Peter Norman, protested against racial inequality in the US - was found to have met the heritage threshold.
However the report said a major deterrent to safeguarding street art on private property would be the cost of maintaining the artwork. It also had the potential for conflict when the listing was initiated by a third party.
"The maintenance is costly and the listing can prevent the property owner from future development of their property,'' the report said.
The report calls for a major policy change from the existing rules, which aims to wipe out graffiti, and has a objective to remove it as quickly as possible.
"Management of murals presents many complicated issues including their finite lifespan,'' the report said.
"Murals may attract strong and often conflicting emotions in the community which surface, especially when there is a danger of the artwork being lost.''