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Sex Trade Survivors Oppose QLDC’s 500% Brothel Expansion

Wahine Toa Rising, the survivor-led charitable trust dedicated to empowering wāhine and tamariki affected by trauma through exploitation in the sex trade, strongly opposes changes proposed in the Brothel Control Bylaw 2024 by the Queenstown Lakes District Council (QLDC). Ally-Marie Diamond, spokeswoman for Wahine Toa Rising, expressed grave concerns about the draft bylaw, which aims to expand areas where sex trade operations can be located in Queenstown and Wanaka by as much as 500%.

"Increasing the area and altering the requirements for brothel locations will serve to heighten the risk of trafficking and exploitation of women and young people, especially those from indigenous and minoritised ethnicities" Ms. Diamond stated. "Such changes will inevitably cause more violence, degradation and harm to individuals and the community."

In its submission on the bylaw, Wahine Toa Rising emphasises that the Prostitution Reform Act 2003 is outdated and in urgent need of review. Ms. Diamond refers to a recent report by the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women and Girls, Reem Alsalem, which criticises New Zealand’s decriminalisation approach for aiding traffickers, boosting sex tourism, and expanding the prostitution market. The report highlights that the current legal framework has not discouraged unsafe practices and has led to increased violence and exploitation of vulnerable women and young people.

The charitable trust also aligns with concerns raised by QLDC Councillor Lisa Guy, who recently highlighted the risks of coercion and exploitation among the district’s high turnover of young travellers. "With scouts targeting rangatahi in social settings and promising easy cash, the reality is that many are being drawn into situations where they have little control," said Guy.

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Wahine Toa Rising supports retaining Option 3 - keeping the current bylaw for now despite its inadequacies, and opposes any expansion of the permitted activity areas for brothels.This would mean brothels must remain at least 100 metres apart; no changes to the current bylaw regarding signage, and maintaining the requirement that brothels not be located at or below ground level within the permitted activity areas. In addition Option 3 keeps the permitted activity areas the same size as allowed now in both Wanaka and Queenstown, in stark contrast to the increases under the proposed bylaw of more than 400% and 500%, respectively.

"The QLDC must refuse to facilitate the expansion of sex trafficking and sex tourism in Wanaka and Queenstown," Diamond says. "Instead of pandering to sex trade lobbyists, the Council should focus on funding and promoting support services for those harmed in the sex trade, such as trauma-informed support services, exit services, and educational resources."

Wahine Toa Rising calls on the QLDC to take its harm prevention responsibilities seriously by retaining the existing bylaw and reducing the permitted activity areas.

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