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Prostitution Law Challenges Local Councils

Prostitution Law Challenges Local Councils

With a key role in dealing with prostitution and brothels under the new Prostitution Reform Act, local councils will now be subject to the tensions and rhetoric that have split Parliament over the past weeks, ACT New Zealand Justice Spokesman Stephen Franks said today.

"Councils should move quickly to develop coherent and defensible policy and bylaws on prostitution," Mr Franks said.

"Until they do, brothels can open wherever they want. But councillors who want to block the brothel industry will have to think whether that might just mean more prostitution moves to the street. The new law gives councils no extra powers to deal with street prostitution.

"It is odd that Justice Minister Phil Goff's amendments, which transfer the prostitution debate to councils, ignored street prostitution and escort agencies.

"Residents of areas where street prostitutes could move should be very afraid. Some Auckland suburb residents have already experienced street prostitution at its worst. The city council was unable to protect householders, who had to endure traffic, slamming doors, used condoms, syringes and bottles, as well as parading prostitutes. Criminals are attracted because street prostitutes' customers are often drunk, or less likely to complain, because they don't want to admit where they were robbed.

"For practical purposes, a brothel manager only needs a licence if his brothel has more than four prostitutes. Licences are issued by the Auckland District Court, and no one has a power to keep drug bosses or gangs out of smaller brothels. Even large brothels will not need a licensed operator for the first six months.

"Even after they make by-laws, the council can only control where brothels are sited, and their advertising signage. They can reject a local application on the grounds of health risk, nuisance, serious offence - or if it is incompatible with the use, or character, of the area.

"I hope the debate on local councils takes more notice of what they are actually voting on, than MPs did. I doubt whether many MPs had even read the law before they spoke or voted," Mr Franks said.

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