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NZ: Council looks for power to ban street prostitutes (Auckland)

Publish Date: 28 Jan 2011
Source: NZ Herald
By: Bernard Orsman

Photo: Greg Bowker.

Prostitutes could be banned from street trading in Auckland and beyond after the Super City council voted to support a bill which was originally focused on one area.

Violence, turf wars and streets littered with syringes and used condoms at Hunters Corner and Manurewa led the former Manukau City Council to have a bill introduced to Parliament.

But with the advent of the Super City, the Regulation of Prostitution in Specific Places Bill has been amended to reflect the new governance structure, which means that the Auckland Council could pass bylaws to outlaw street prostitution anywhere in the city.

Under the bill, the council must specify where street prostitution is outlawed. It cannot apply a blanket ban.

The bill grants police the power to arrest anyone suspected of being a sex worker or client of sexual services in that area with a maximum fine of $2000.

Police will also be able to pull over any vehicle suspected of being involved in prostitution.

The bill is opposed by the Prostitutes Collective and several councillors, who believe it will undo improvements for sex workers since the 2003 Prostitution Reform Act and drive them underground.

Prostitutes Collective regional manager Annah Pickering said: "You cannot suppress street prostitution. You will simply push it into outer space or another space."

But councillor Sir John Walker, who grew up in Manurewa when it was what he called "safe", said people did not want their children to see used condoms and syringes in the street.

"Our community are saying to us, 'Get these people off the street."'

Councillors voted 11-7 at yesterday's council meeting to support a council submission on the bill. Submissions on the bill - put forward in Parliament by Manurewa MP George Hawkins - close on February 4.

Mayor Len Brown supported the bill, saying "we sure as hell have a problem in these two communities", but he acknowledged that it was not a silver bullet to solve the complicated issue.

Other councillors in favour of the bill were community safety forum chairman and former policeman George Wood, Sandra Coney - a feminist with an interest in women's health - and Christine Fletcher, a former Minister of Women's Affairs.

Ms Coney said she supported the bill because prostitution was harmful to women and led to violence and murder.

Councillor Cathy Casey, who opposed the bill, said a Ministry of Justice report in 2009 found legislation was not the answer to street prostitution. The answer lay in a holistic response from the Government, councils, the Prostitutes Collective and other groups, she said.

It was the general view of councillors that they would only use the bill at this stage to outlaw prostitution at Hunters Corner and Manurewa.


How did the campaign begin?

Councillors in Manukau wanted to ban street prostitutes at Hunters Corner and Manurewa after complaints from residents. The desired power could now be widened to all areas of the Super City.

What would the ban do?

Outlaw street prostitution from specific areas, with fines up to $2000 for offenders. The council will not be able to apply a blanket ban across its territory, however.

What is the opposition?

Legal prostitution advocates believe it will drive sex workers underground and make their jobs more dangerous.

Is this law?

Not yet. The bill is before Parliament. The council has only voted to support a submission on the bill. MPs have the final say.