Brothel control bid torpedoed

An eleventh-hour bid to stop big brothels from setting up outside Christchurch's four avenues was abruptly stopped yesterday, leaving the city councillors behind the idea furious.

The council has been considering a draft bylaw restricting the operation of big brothels to some commercial areas of Christchurch and Lyttelton, but Cr Aaron Keown yesterday led a push to tighten the proposed regulations so that new brothels can operate only in the central city.

With Jimmy Chen and Glenn Livingstone voicing support for his motion, he had the numbers around the table to get it passed, but brothel bylaws panel chairwoman Helen Broughton refused to allow the motion to be put and abruptly adjourned the meeting, saying she needed more legal advice.

"If you felt you had the numbers for your own preference, I don't think you would adjourn the meeting," Livingstone said, but Broughton refused to budge on her decision.

After the meeting, Keown questioned Broughton's right to halt the meeting when a motion was on the table.

"It just feels like because it wasn't going her way, she changes the rules," he said.

Chen criticised Broughton for refusing to allow the panel to vote, saying it was a breach of the democratic process.

If Keown's motion had passed and the council had subsequently accepted the panel's recommendation, it would have needed to consult with the public again on its plans to regulate the location of brothels as it would have radically departed from its original proposal.

The council has already spent about $70,000 on consulting on the draft bylaw.

Since 2005, there have been no controls in Christchurch on where commercial brothels can operate, but the earthquakes severely damaged the central city, where 12 of the 13 known commercial brothels were located.

The council wanted to make sure it could control where they relocated, so in June it released a draft bylaw that restricted the location of big brothels to certain commercial areas of Christchurch and Lyttelton and kept them away from schools and designated "important open spaces", such as Cathedral Square and the Avon River. A total of 194 individuals and groups made submissions on the draft bylaw.

Broughton said yesterday she strongly opposed the move to restrict the brothels to the central business district.

She said most of the concerns raised by the submitters had been addressed, and if the council did not push ahead now, it would be forced to consult the public again, which would take more time and money.

Deputy Mayor Ngaire Button implored panel members not to close the door on all the hard work that had been done by supporting Keown's motion.

She said at the very least the panel should put forward two options to the council - one that allowed it to proceed with the bylaw, as amended through the submission process, and one that restricted brothels to the CBD.

Keown denied the process would be wasted because after listening to the public he had reached his view that brothels should be allowed only in the CBD.

"Brothels are a central-city business; they are not suburban business. They don't belong in suburban neighbourhoods," he said.

Chen said most submitters wanted brothels located in the CBD only.

None had voiced support for brothels being set up in their area.

The Press