Brothel debate about building, not sex

SIMON DAY
Last updated 05:00 13/11/2012
A drawing of the 12-storey super-brothel Chow Group plans for opposite SkyCity in Auckland.
HIGH-RISE SEX CLUB: A drawing of the 12-storey super-brothel Chow Group plans to open opposite SkyCity in Auckland.

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Consultants arguing the case for a 15-storey building in Auckland's CBD to be used as a super brothel have told a consent hearing the debate is over the premises, not the sexual activity that will happen inside.
 
A resource consent hearing got underway yesterday at the Auckland Town Hall for John and Michael Chow's Penthouse Club on Victoria St, where the historic Palace Hotel once stood, opposite SkyCity.

The hotel was demolished in November 2010 after being damaged while under the Chows' care.

Lawyer for the Chows, Russell Bartlett, stressed it was not an application for a brothel under question - it is a permissible activity under the Prostitution Law Reform Act - rather the building itself.

"In terms of activity it (prostitution) is one of them, there will also be offices. We are not asking this panel to revisit the council's decision to make this activity a permitted activity in the area."

The application needs consent for its use as a hotel, an application which has no relevance to its proposed use as a brothel, said the project's planning consultant, Martin Green. "The proposal has been subject to public scrutiny and a large number of submissions were received. The majority... were concerned with the use to which the building is to be put and in my opinion have no bearing on the matters," he said.
 
The council received 220 submissions against the development and one offering conditional support.

Hotels in the central city are welcome activities and fulfil an important function in accommodating city visitors, Green said.

The building's architect, Paul Brown, said the building would be a "positive contribution to the cityscape" and the brothers considered it an excellent location.

"The site occupies a prominent corner location opposite the entrance to the Sky City Casino and is ideally suited to redevelopment for the intended purposes," he said.

The building's design had the potential to enhance the vibrant, urban character of the central city, creating a landmark in a logical location, landscape architect Rachel de Lambert told the hearing.

"The proposed building has distinctive features integral to the design that will make it a local landmark and add to the already established night time entertainment character of this part of the city," she said.
 
Some submitters expressed their opposition to the demolition of the Palace Hotel, and suggested a moratorium on development on the site.

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"It appears that this council is interested in the intensification of Auckland at the expense of heritage," said Lisa Prager, coordinator of the Westmere Heritage Protection Association.

"They seem comfortable to see our heritage swept aside for a more modern, intensified, liveable city that they are so keen to create."

But this matter is also not relevant to the proposed resource consent application, the hearing heard.

The project will have little impact on the city's environment, according to experts speaking on behalf of the Chows.

The sites location, on a key arterial route, would have negligible effects on traffic and parking.
 
And its design, and incentives for the developers to restrict internal intrusion, would mean any increase in noise would be minimal.

"The noise effects would be less than minor for the neighbours and within the baseline levels for the site," said acoustics engineer Nevil Hegley.
 
The building will feature a ground level bar and restaurant. A first-floor mezzanine will host a brothel and accommodation will be located on the third and fourth floors.

A strip club will occupy the first and second floors. Hotel rooms will be on the fifth to eighth floors.

About 20 public submitters are expected to speak at the hearings over the next two days.

The majority of the submissions in opposition to the super-brothel were from individuals religious and community groups opposed to the proposed activities of the building.

A decision on the developments future is expected within 15 days of the hearing finishing.

- Auckland Now

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