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Auckland’s first draft brothel bylaw endorsed


10 September 2003

Auckland's first draft brothel bylaw endorsed

Today's City Development Committee endorsed a draft bylaw to restrict the location of brothels in Auckland city to certain areas of the central business district (CBD) and a handful of industrial areas.

Councils do not have the power to ban brothels entirely.

In the suburbs, the draft bylaw states that brothels should not be established in residential areas or within 250 metres of a school, pre-school, place of worship, major public transport interchange, community facility or at ground level on retail frontages.

In the CBD, brothels cannot be set up in certain areas, such as residential and tertiary education precincts, or at ground level on main shopping streets.

The draft bylaw allows existing brothels that do not comply with the new location rules to remain where they are until 30 June 2004.

The bylaw also states that signage for brothels:

- cannot display words or images, which in the opinion of the council, are sexually explicit, lewd or offensive

- can identify only the name of the business

- is restricted to one per brothel

- must not exceed one metre x 0.3 metres in size.

Flashing lights that can be seen from outside the brothel and sandwich boards are also prohibited under the new bylaw.

In addition to the location and signage restrictions, the bylaw addresses operational health and safety issues for brothels.

Brothels must be maintained in a state of good repair and in a clean, tidy and hygienic condition. All brothels must be open to inspection by Auckland City's environmental health officers.

The chairperson of the City Development Committee, Councillor Juliet Yates, says the bylaw applies to all brothels in Auckland city including small owner-operator brothels with four or less staff.

Local councils were given the power to introduce bylaws to determine the location of brothels and to control the content, form and amount of signage advertising commercial sex premises following the passing of the Prostitution Reform Act passed by Parliament in June.

The bylaw must be seen to be "reasonable' and not interfere with rights protected by the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990.

Prior to introducing a new bylaw, councils must also demonstrate that it is the most appropriate way of addressing the issue.

To this end Auckland City prepared a report that assesses the impact of the location of brothels in the city. This includes information gathered through interviews with business associations, school principals, the New Zealand Prostitutes' Collective and brothel owners.

Mrs Yates says the report clearly states that a bylaw is the most appropriate mechanism of managing the potential negative effects of the decriminalisation of prostitution.

The bylaw is designed to prevent the clustering of brothels in suburban areas or establishment of brothels close to places that children frequent. It will also ensure that brothel signage does not cause offence or detract from the existing character of an area and make sure brothels operate with a current license and comply with the council's health and safety bylaws and other regulations.

However, she says, the council"s use of a bylaw should be strengthened by the use of other strategies, such as good neighbour policies to minimise unwanted environmental social or health effects.

The draft bylaw also addresses issues relating to the location and signage of commercial sex premises in Auckland city.

"Feedback from the city's community boards and other community organisations clearly indicates that there are significant public health, safety and nuisance issues with the commercial sex industry, that warrant control," says Mrs Yates.

The draft bylaw states that in suburban areas, commercial sex premises should not be set up in residential areas or at ground level in retail streets. In the CBD, commercial sex premises cannot be located in residential and tertiary education areas, or at ground level on main shopping streets.

Signs promoting commercial sex premises cannot be visible from residential areas or display words or images that the council considers sexually explicit, lewd or offensive.

Mrs Yates says the bylaw definition of a commercial sex premise includes striptease clubs, rap parlours, massage parlours and adult sex shops. Brothels are defined as any premise that is kept or habitually used for the purposes of prostitution.

If approved by the full council at its meeting later this month, the bylaw will go out for public consultation in October.

"It is important that the debate about the location and promotion of brothels and other commercial sex premises is placed in the public arena. The process will be fair and the council will listen to all submissions on this matter with an open mind and amendments will be made to the bylaw if required."

"Parliament has put councils in a difficult position. The Prostitution Reform Act will be no easy task to administer," says Mrs Yates.

The cost of developing this new bylaw is estimated at $35,000. Costs associated with monitoring and enforcing the bylaw are yet to be determined.


Please note: A copy of the draft bylaw is available on request along with maps detailing where brothels and commercial sex premises can be located under the new bylaw.

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