Call for 'buffer' between brothels and homes

NICOLE MATHEWSON
Last updated 15:23 27/07/2012

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Christchurch residents have called for a "buffer zone" to be established between large-scale brothels and residential areas.

A Christchurch City Council hearings panel is listening to 20 submissions on the council's proposed bylaw to restrict the areas where brothels are allowed to operate.

Under the bylaw, most brothels would be required to be located within certain commercial areas and away from schools and designated "important open spaces", such as Cathedral Square and the Avon River.

Existing large brothels and small owner-operated brothels would be exempt.

The proposed bylaw attracted nearly 200 submissions from residents and organisations, with 20 planning to speak at the panel hearing today.

The location of brothels in the city had not been subject to any bylaw controls since July 2005, when part of a 2004 council bylaw was quashed by the High Court.

However, the post-earthquake closure of the central city, which forced many brothels to move to the suburbs, has raised community concerns about where they are allowed to operate.

RESIDENTS 'DON'T FEEL SAFE'

Lindsay Carswell, speaking on behalf of residents at a Stanmore Rd complex, said a brothel established in one of the units had caused huge disruption for families in the complex.

He asked for the council to prohibit brothels from being operated in units like theirs.

The brothel opened in February "right in our face", he said.

"It's like having the red-light district of Manchester St on your driveway."

One woman, who did not want to be named, said she had bought a unit as a "nice family home", but "all of a sudden ... I'm too scared to even take my rubbish bins outside because there are people sitting in cars obviously waiting to come in".

She had had people come to her door trying to find the "full-fledged" brothel.

"They think they're above the law. I would say it's not a small owner-operated brothel, otherwise they wouldn't have had to put more bedrooms in there,'' she said..

"We're coming to you as a last resort to try to protect us ... I don't feel safe."

Another woman said the brothel had caused parking issues in the area throughout the day and night, even though the street was meant to have a 30-minute parking limit.

"The [house] values are going to go down. These are homes that are for people, for families, not [for] having these people that are being threatening," she said.

Council advisers said the district plan rule, which determined where a business could operate, may apply more in this case than the proposed bylaw.

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Deputy mayor Ngaire Button said if the bylaw passed, it would restrict only operator-run brothels and would not affect smaller owner-operated brothels.

She advised the residents to contact the police if they felt threatened or unsafe.

'Buffer zone' called for

Riccarton-Wigram Community Board chairman Mike Mora told the hearing that the board was concerned that industrial areas, such as Riccarton and Blenheim roads, could "quite easily become the red-light district of the city''.

Mora said the board did not want "clusters" of brothels to be established on a single street.

He asked for a "buffer" to be put in place, with at least one block between the zones were a brothel was allowed and a residential area.

The board did not want a family to have to live directly across the road from a brothel, "seeing everything that goes on''.

Lyttelton-Mt Herbert Community Board chairwoman Paula Smith said smaller owner-operated brothels were "acceptable" for the Lyttelton area, but residents did not want "large-scale operations" allowed in the town centre.

Lyttelton's town centre was a "real mixture" of businesses, restaurants and residences, whereas the other areas identified around Christchurch as being suitable for brothels were "more industrial".

She did not think there had been any issues with prostitution in Lyttelton in recent years, but she was concerned the proposed bylaw may have "highlighted" Lyttelton as a potential site for operator-run brothels.

Cr Helen Broughton, chairwoman of the panel, said the council could be seen as "prohibiting" prostitution if it did not allow operator-run brothels in Lyttelton's town centre.

Carla Humphrey, of the Chester Street East Residents' Association and Avon Loop Planning Association, said a "buffer zone" needed to be established between zones where brothels were permitted and residential zones.

She agreed with the council's proposal to place controls on signs advertising commercial sexual services as she would "hate to see something" like the signage used for the Calendar Girls strip club in Hereford St outside her window.

- The Press

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