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Manukau City Council’s portfolio leader for community safety, Councillor Dick Quax says the government review of street prostitution in Manukau is very disappointing.
While the council’s working party set up to review the issue recommended both legislative and non-legislative measures, the ministry of justice report released today concludes that ‘localised approaches are likely to be more effective than legislation’ for dealing with the issue.
It recommends the council, police, residents, business-owners and sex workers work together to address community tensions and anti-social behaviour.
The report fails to offer comprehensive solution for street prostitution, says Cr Quax. “It ignores the fact that anti-social behaviour such as harassment and intimidation has become worse since the passing of the legislation decriminalising prostitution.”
Last night, the council unanimously approved the recommendation of its Policy and Activities Committee to seek an amendment to the Prostitution Reform Act 2003 to make street prostitution illegal.
“Despite the fact that street prostitution exists in only a small part of Manukau, Councillors from all parts of this city have endorsed the need for legislative change as part of the overall strategy to eliminate street prostitution. This shows the amount of concern that exists in our community,” says Cr Quax.
The council’s working party acknowledged the need for a range of measures to address street prostitution, including the possibility of criminal sanctions for street prostitutes and non-compliant clients. The working party recommended a series of legislative and non-legislative measures.
The ministry report however expects communities to be tolerant and says, “In other areas of New Zealand, where street-based prostitution is long-standing, it is more readily tolerated by residents. Those considering moving into the area are also aware of its existence. However, street-based prostitution is said to have existed in Hunters Corner and around the Northcrest car park for at least 11 years and yet, the issue has not been normalised.”
Commenting on this, Cr Quax says, “Imagine used condoms, needles littering your driveway or place of business. How can we expect our residents to be tolerant?”
New Zealand government decriminalised prostitution in 2003 and set up Prostitution Law Review Committee to review the effectiveness of legislation in 2005. The committee found that street prostitution was the most likely entry point for underage people into the industry and that the benefits of the law change cannot be fully realised in the street-based sector.
The committee had recommended that it was important to create options for street prostitutes to move to safer, indoor environment, or leave the industry. “The ministry’s recommendations offer no incentives for street workers to leave the street sector or even to abide by community concerns. It is time we accepted that the 2003 reforms have failed to improve the lives of communities and street workers and confine the business of prostitution to indoor settings. The ministry report has done little in that direction,” says Cr Quax.
Instead, the ministry report recommends environmental measures such as: more rubbish bins, 24-hour opening of public toilets, after-hours closure of car parks, cleaning of private car parks, increased community policing, traffic design and management, liquor ban enforcement, and reducing opening hours of pubs and liquor outlets.
Earlier, in his meeting with the prime minister in December last year, Manukau Mayor Len Brown had sought a review of the Prostitution Law Reform legislation following community concerns.
The council will now seek to further discuss the issue with the prime minister and local members of the parliament.