Brothels: Sex in the suburbs

NZ Herald 4 Feb 2012
Brown St is just the latest suburban flashpoint in the nine years since the Prostitution Reform Act was passed, decriminalising the sex trade in a bid to make it safer for participants. From main centres – notably Auckland, Tauranga, Wellington and Christchurch – to small town Dannevirke, the legalisation of prostitution has felt the lash of moral panic. It may be legal but most people want it to remain out of sight – particularly in areas where they live. In Auckland, neighbours have revolted against brothels in their backyards in Greenlane, Mt Eden, Birkenhead, Mt Albert, Remuera, Henderson and elsewhere. Street workers in downtown Auckland, Papatoetoe and Christchurch have angered residents and businesses, who tell lurid tales of indiscreet activity and associations with drugs, alcohol, urination, and worse. Landlords and property managers in upmarket apartment blocks have reported problems evicting tenants operating home sex businesses. Each public furore brings calls to revisit (or tear up) the Prostitution Reform Act or to ban the industry from residential areas. But is the legislation to blame or is it the way councils (and other agencies) have dealt with it? The act made it clear that councils could use bylaws and land zoning controls to guide the location of brothels, limit offence to the general public and preserve “existing character”. But for busy councils with limited income sources, the additional monitoring and enforcement responsibilities were not exactly welcomed. Nor were they simple to apply…

Another obstacle confronting opponents is the dim view the courts have taken of some council efforts to restrict the location of brothels. In 2004 the old Auckland City Council introduced a bylaw effectively banning brothels from residential areas and within 250m of schools, churches and community centres. But a High Court challenge from an Epsom brothel saw the bylaw thrown out on grounds it was too restrictive and undermined the intentions of the Prostitution Reform Act. A similar bylaw in Christchurch was also overturned. The 2008 Parliamentary review also cautioned against using zoning to confine Soobs to areas such as industrial land because of the increased risk of assault and robbery facing small operators. Yet a Hamilton City Council bylaw restricting the sex industry to the CBD and an industrial belt has survived since 2004…

the Auckland Council is finally developing a sex industry policy to replace Auckland City’s failed bylaw and create a level playing field across the region. The draft policy supports a combination of planning and bylaw controls and “non-regulatory” approaches. Though it acknowledges most local boards want brothels out of residential areas, it stresses that regulations need to be enforceable. “There is a sense that the industry can move underground relatively easily and any regulation needs to be legitimate and have the ability to be enforced.” The council has also “picked up” a local bill drafted by the Manukau City Council which, if passed by Parliament, will give it more power to restrict the location of street workers. The Christchurch City Council is looking at supporting the bill, which could then go national.
http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10783338

Share