Big brothels face new restrictions

LOIS CAIRNS
Last updated 05:00 12/09/2012

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Large brothels will be banned from setting up next to preschools, schools and residential areas under new planning rules.

A Christchurch City Council hearings panel has moved to strengthen a proposed bylaw restricting brothels to certain commercial areas of the city by placing a buffer zone around educational facilities and housing.

The change will effectively make it illegal for new brothels to set up next to or opposite a school or preschool or in a commercial area directly adjoining a residential area.

Deputy Mayor and panel member Ngaire Button said residents had made it clear through the submission process that they did not want brothels in their areas.

"Whether or not the effects are real or perceived . . . there is an offensiveness issue around brothels which we need to address," she said.

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

The Canterbury earthquakes severely damaged the central city, where 12 of the 13 known commercial brothels were relocated.

The city council wants to make sure it can control where they relocate through a new bylaw so it can avoid a repeat of the problems in Merivale this year, when the Families and Brothels Don't Mix group was formed to drive a brothel out of the suburb because of concerns about sexual noises and unsavoury characters.

Professional dominatrix and New Zealand Prostitutes Collective regional representative Felicity Maera-Wallace said the move to create as much distance as possible between brothels and the community was not unexpected, but it was a sign the sex industry was still discriminated against.

Experience showed that brothels caused few problems.

"We are a business like any other," Maera-Wallace said.

"There are so many rules and regulations that we already have to adhere to. Adding another set of rules on top of that is discriminatory," she said.

Panel member Cr Glenn Livingstone said it was fitting that brothels should be treated differently to other businesses as many residents found the nature of their business offensive.

"It is discriminatory, but in favour of the community," Livingstone said.

"We are not saying ‘no' to them, we are just regulating where they can go."

The hearings panel has still to decide how the proposed bylaw will be applied in the central city.

It has received some correspondence from the Christchurch Central Development Unit on the issue but has yet to formally consider the points raised.

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The panel is still considering whether brothels should be allowed in Lyttelton's commercial area.

Councillors yesterday indicated they did not object to brothels being allowed along Norwich Quay but shared the community's concern over permitting them to operate in the main shopping area.

The council's brothel bylaw attracted 193 submissions from the public this year.

Most of the submitters strongly supported the council's moves to restrict the location of brothels as they linked prostitution with drugs, alcohol and crime and felt they would make areas unsafe and unpleasant unless well policed.

- The Press

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