Ngaire Button (above), Deputy Mayor of Christchurch, New Zealand, has issued a blunt warning to South Australians, whose parliament is debating a bill to decriminalise prostitution.
She said Christchurch has been going through tough times since huge earthquakes wrecked the CBD. But New Zealand’s Prostitution Reform Act 2003 – basically the same as SA MP Steph Key’s Sex Work Reform Bill – has only added to the city’s problems, including financial problems.
Ms Button spoke to FamilyVoice Australia leaders who were visiting Christchurch last week. She said:
“It’s really hard to get somebody that’s employed to do traffic enforcement and enforce conditions on resource and building consents to go out and do enforcements around brothel compliance. It’s a specialised skill. What we’ve found is that this whole thing has taken up so many resources. And who’s paying? The ratepayer!
“This (South Australian) bill will have an impact on rates, on the efficiency of how cities run, because it is staff time and not police time. The sex industry … because it is so fraught with so many criminal facets, it really is a law and order issue, not a local government issue. A parking officer who enters a brothel wouldn’t know what to look out for.
“Our staff have spent hours, weeks, months, over the last few years trying to manage prostitution in the city. We had 300 submissions from various groups in the city about signage. We had a big stack of submissions, hundreds – asking us not to allow brothels in their area. We can’t do anything about street prostitution,” she said.
“The street walkers fight about possession. They yell at each other across the road and argue, make a racket, and the cars are stopping …and there’s the mess in people’s yards, because there are no toilets. So they’ve been using people’s yards as toilets. Then there’s the condoms and needles and other things in people’s front yards and around the property and on the streets. And husbands being solicited in their driveway as they come home from work.
“Pimping has been an issue too. A council colleague has been to Manchester Street to talk to some of the girls. There are guys behind them with baseball bats. The exploitation has caused great problems with drug addiction.”
Ngaire Button said that the Christchurch Council had tried to limit the placement of brothels, but was taken to court by a man who owned three brothels. The council lost the case. “It cost ratepayers $100,000. It’s put a huge burden on us to manage brothels within the city,” she said.
She was not aware of any prostitute murders before the sex industry was decriminalised in 2003. Since that time, three Christchurch sex workers have been murdered. “Yet the law was supposed to make it safer,” the Deputy Mayor said.
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