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Christchurch: Brothel bylaw to be developed

22 March 2012

Brothel bylaw to be developed

Christchurch City Council today asked staff to develop a new bylaw to address any potential issues with the possible location of brothels.

The Council also recommended that the new bylaw considers providing an exemption from the location provisions for known, existing brothels (that are not small owner-operated brothels).

The bylaw could require all brothels, other than small owner-operator brothels, to be located within specific areas based on particular zones in the City Plan, the proposed Banks Peninsula District Plan and the Draft Central City Plan. These areas include:

• Specific areas within the Commercial Business Zones of the City Plan.
• The Lyttelton Town Centre Zone in the proposed Banks Peninsula District Plan.
• Central City Core, Central City fringe and two areas within the Mixed Use Zones to the south west and south east of the Central City area in the Draft Central City Plan. With the exception of areas marked as buildings, and areas adjacent to important public spaces on Planning Map 39F of the City Plan.

Many of the known brothels were located in the Central City. Most of the business premises of these brothels are inaccessible or badly damaged as a result of the 2011 earthquakes. These businesses may wish to temporarily or permanently relocate to other parts of the city.

Mayor Bob Parker says the Council has revisited the issue and is now confident that developing a bylaw to regulate the location of brothels to specific zones, will provide more controls on where brothels can operate.

“This decision will assure the community that the Council is committed to looking at ways to help regulate these activities, and will send a clear signal as to what is acceptable, and where,” he says.

Sue Wells Chairperson of the Regulatory and Planning Committee says, “The Council has a clear starting point for consultation. We will provide more legible maps and better explanations to enable a good discussion on the issue,” she says.

Formal consultation with the community will be required and is expected to begin later in the year.

The Council decided to seek further advice about bylaw provisions to regulate signage advertising commercial sexual services.

When the Council meets to discuss the bylaw later in the year, it is likely that proposed signage provisions will be included.

Background information:

Under Section 14 of the Prostitution Reform Act 2003 a territorial authority can make a bylaw for the purpose of regulating the location of brothels.

Brothels, like any other business, are subject to rules in the City Plan and the Proposed Banks Peninsula Plan. These rules vary, depending upon the zone:

• In living zones, a brothel would generally require a resource consent unless it is a small-scale home-based business with limited hours of operation.
• In business zones, the brothel would need to meet standard requirements relating to the bulk and location of the building on the site, car parking and traffic generation.

Under the Proposed Banks Peninsula District Plan, brothels are treated as a permitted activity within the Town Centre Zones and are a discretionary activity in the Industrial Zones, subject to standard conditions relating to building size, height, parking and access provisions.

When considering a Resource Consent application under the Resource Management Act 1991, the Council considers whether the business of prostitution:

a) - is likely to cause a nuisance or serious offence to ordinary members of the public using the area in which the land is situated; or

b) - is incompatible with the existing character or use of the area in which the land is situated.

Under Section 12 of the Prostitution Reform Act 2003 a territorial authority can make a bylaw for the purpose of regulating signage advertising commercial sexual service. A bylaw can only be made:

(2) - if the territorial authority is satisfied that the bylaw is necessary to prevent the public display of signage that:

a) - is likely to cause a nuisance or serious offence to ordinary members of the public using the area in which the land is situated; or

b) - is incompatible with the existing character or use of the area in which the land is situated.

The Christchurch City Brothels (Location and Signage) Bylaw 2004 was adopted by the Council on 7 July 2004. However, the location provision was quashed by the High Court in 2005 leaving only the signage provision.

The Local Government Act requires that bylaws be reviewed five years and on 10 December 2009 the Council considered a report on the review of the Christchurch City Brothels (Location and Signage) Bylaw 2004. The Council did not consider that there was a problem that needed to be addressed with respect to the location of brothels and requested that Council staff develop a proposal for a revised bylaw to address matters of advertising commercial sexual services only.

In early 2011, council staff prepared a report to the Regulatory and Planning Committee with a new proposed bylaw relating to signage that would have allowed a new bylaw to be in place before the expiry of the 2004 Bylaw. However, the 22 February earthquake meant this report did not go to Council.

The Christchurch City Brothels (Location and Signage) Bylaw 2004 expired on 6 July 2011. In the interim, any complaints about offensive signage are addressed under the enforcement provisions of the Resource Management Act 1991. The effects of the 2011 earthquakes including closure of the central city has caused concerns regarding the potential relocation of brothels to other areas that would not be subject to any regulation. Most brothels were located in the central city and are now badly damaged and/or inaccessible. These businesses may wish to relocate to other parts of the city and they may not need a resource consent, subject to compliance with standards including noise, hours of operation and parking. The Council has therefore re-considered issues around the location of brothels.


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