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Residential brothels need urgent regulation

Residential brothels need urgent regulation

“Small owner-operator brothels (SOOBs), with four sex workers or less, are causing big headaches for communities. At the moment they’re seen in the eyes of the law no differently than a student flat. However they need to be regulated as the public has had enough,” says Auckland Councillor for Orakei, Cameron Brewer.

Options to regulate the sex industry are being reviewed by the Regulatory and Bylaws Committee at Auckland Council. Local boards have been consulted as part of the review, and they have a strong preference for brothels not to operate in residential areas. Concerned people need to keep raising the issues to their local boards, councillors and MPS, says Mr Brewer. He says residential brothels are causing a lot worry in his own neighbourhood of Remuera.

“The 2003 Prostitution Reform Act prescribed and accommodated SOOBs, and so sadly they’re here to stay. The growing question however is how can we restrict them as much a possible them to lessen the negative impacts on neighbours?

“Unfortunately it will be hard to push them completely out of residential areas given they’re legally allowed to exist and operate. However the council needs to do a lot better. Presently SOOBs are allowed to run amok and they run counter to the Mayor’s vision of creating the world’s most liveable city, that’s safe, and one that puts children first.

“Currently small brothels just need to prove there’s no brothel keeper and that they’re independent operators retaining full control of their earnings. So basically four prostitutes under one roof can do what they want day and night and there’s no real regulation or need for a licence. It’s quite outrageous, given SOOBs are the ones causing the greatest problems for many communities.

“I’m keen for the council to look at regulating the proximity of small brothels in relation to the likes of day-cares, schools, churches and community centres. The council should also consider restricting their location to mixed-use zones only, or make sure their operations are not incompatible with an area’s character. The council could also place controls on their operating hours to limit the likes of traffic and noise at key times of the day and night. We need to do all we can to make it as hard as possible. At the moment, residential areas are the easiest places to set up shop That is wrong.

“Our leafy streets, neighbourhoods and suburbia are the worst possible environments for brothels but case law shows we’ll struggle to get rid of them all together. A past High Court case with the former Auckland City Council ruled that SOOBs are legally permitted to operate in residential areas and that council’s bylaws cannot be overly restrictive.

“There’s talk about regulating them through both bylaws and specific provisions in the forthcoming Unitary Plan. Given the Unitary Plan won’t become operational for some years, I would like to see some strong bylaws adopted in the first instance. If we can put the squeeze on outdoor smoking, surely we can getting tougher on suburban brothels?

“We can’t outlaw them completely, but the council does need to pull its head out the sand, acknowledge they’re causing real problems, and regulate them as tightly as it can. That’s what I will fight for,” says Cameron Brewer.

For agenda and minutes see Bylaws and Regulatory Committee 9 December 2011 meeting documents on council website (link below).



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