Police drop support for bylaw banning sex workers from suburban Christchurch video

DAVID WALKER/Fairfax NZ

For six years residents have been subjected to sex workers outside their St Albans homes, and have had to put up with condoms, syringes and wet wipes on their properties and in their letter boxes, as well as threats of violence. They are fed up.

Banning prostitutes from working in residential areas will be ineffective, difficult to enforce and no longer has police support, Christchurch City Council staff say.

The declaration has enraged St Albans residents who pleaded with the council in May to regulate to stop prostitutes working outside their homes. 

In a letter sent to residents and the New Zealand Prostitutes Collective on Monday, council chief executive Karleen Edwards and Canterbury Metro Commander Superintendent Lane Todd said developing an effective bylaw presented "significant difficulties" under current legislation.

Police no longer support a bylaw preventing prostitutes working in residential areas. Christchurch City Council staff ...
IAIN MCGREGOR/STUFF

Police no longer support a bylaw preventing prostitutes working in residential areas. Christchurch City Council staff have recommended the idea be dropped.

The council decided in May to consider a new clause to its public places bylaw, but only after it received a staff report on the issue in September.  

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Edwards and Todd said in the letter, the staff report would recommend the council not pursue developing a bylaw to regulate the location of street-based sex workers.

For six years, Matt Bonis and his family have put up with sex workers outside their home in St Albans, where residents ...
DAVID WALKER/STUFF

For six years, Matt Bonis and his family have put up with sex workers outside their home in St Albans, where residents have cleaned up faeces, used condoms and needles.

Staff would instead recommend an alternative solution, focused on moving the sex workers away from the residential area north of Bealey Ave and reducing community tensions.

The council's Regulatory Performance Committee would consider the staff report on October 11.

Prostitutes Collective National co-ordinator Catherine Healey applauded the "astute" recommendation.

The collective opposed any form of regulation against sex workers because it had not worked in the past.

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"It would not do anything other than raise everyone's temperatures," she said. Sex workers would not respond to a "bylaw approach", she said. 

Matt Bonis, a spokesman for the residents, was "angry and frustrated beyond words" after reading the letter.

He was consulting lawyers to see what options were available and get a legal opinion on the council's interpretation of the law.

Residents living close to the corner of Purchas and Manchester streets, a block north of Bealey Ave, have put up with sex workers outside their homes for more than six years. They have had to clean up faeces, used condoms, needles and found used wet wipes in their letterboxes.

Sex workers have used the area since they were forced out of the central city immediately after 2011 earthquake. Some sex workers returned to the city, but others remained and continued to disrupt the lives of nearby residents.

Bonis said the number of prostitutes working in the area had dropped, but the issue had not gone away.

Earlier this year police said they were willing to support the council in enforcing a bylaw, but Todd said police had since reviewed that position.

Todd said in the letter, after seeking further advice and looking at the legislation and issues in more detail, police were unable to enforce such a bylaw, but "remained committed" to supporting a reduction in street-based sex work. 

"We want residents to feel safe at home and in their neighbourhood streets, and we also want street-based sex workers to feel safe and part of the community.  We are confident that by coming together as a community we will find a solution that is acceptable to all involved," Edwards and Todd wrote.

Central ward councillor Deon Swiggs​ said the staff recommendation was a "terribly disappointing result".

"The law is letting down our residents in this respect who want some action."

He said it seemed the only way to support residents with any enforceable action was to get a law change through the Government.

 - Stuff

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