Keith Haring, in his Pop Shop in New York City in 1986. ((Charles Dolfi-Michels/Keith Haring Foundation))

Officials in Australia are debating how to preserve what they say is the last surviving mural painted entirely by hand by the late U.S. pop artist Keith Haring.

Haring, who was in Australia in 1984, created a gigantic 7.4- by 11.5-metre mural of his trademark dancing-man figures on a wall in the suburb of Yarra in Melbourne.

The artist, who died in 1990, was invited by the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art to create temporary, large-scale murals.

The one in Yarra — painted on what used to be the Collingwood Technical School —  was the first of his murals created with a cherry-picker, allowing the artist to expand his work.

"This mural is part of Yarra and inner Melbourne's cultural and physical landscape — and we want to ensure it stays that way," Yarra Mayor Jane Garrett told The Art Newspaper.

The wall is falling apart and, because of pollution and weather, the paint is wearing off. Officials are having to consider funds to stabilize the wall and most of contentious of all, whether to repaint the mural.

Government failed in 'duty of care'

In a recent meeting, Yarra residents, city officials and representatives from ACCA and the University of Melbourne hashed out their ideas and opinions.

In 2004, Yarra had the mural added to the heritage registry of the state of Victoria. The building is owned by the Victorian state government, which many say allowed the mural to deteriorate.

"It is our own government who has lapsed in its duty of care," said ACCA curator Hannah Mathews.

The cost of stabilizing the wall is about $22,000, while $900 a year would be needed for maintenance.

Art experts say it is important to preserve the mural because it was seminal to the development of Haring's art.

So far, the Yarra government has created a working group to figure out the mural's future and decide what appropriate measures need to be taken to preserve it.

Haring was considered a groundbreaking artist whose works during the 1980s incorporated elements of graffiti, hip-hop and gay culture.

The New York-based artist's graphic style and penchant for public art resulted in many works being reprinted onto T-shirts, album covers and other daily objects.