Editorial: Brothel policy is risky

By Dylan Thorne

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Mayor Stuart Crosby.
Mayor Stuart Crosby.

A council proposal to cut the cost of opening and operating a brothel while raising the cost of other council charges will no doubt spark a backlash from some quarters.

Yesterday, the Bay of Plenty Times reported the cost of funerals may rise and children could be charged to camp at McLaren Falls but the cost of a new brothel consent application would drop from $930 to just $210. The cost of three-yearly licence renewals would also drop.

I was surprised the council was considering such a cut given the recent discussions about the council's debt levels and the various avenues it is exploring to balance its books.

It also seemed like the council was courting controversy by giving brothel owners, an industry frowned upon in some corners, a break while charging funeral directors more.

Mount Maunganui Presbyterian minister Ray Coster says the council needs to move beyond the simple user-pays model and take into account ethical considerations.

Councillors have a duty to reflect the views of the community in their decisions, he says.

There will be many who agree with Mr Coster as a matter of principle or of faith.

In terms of the law, however, the Prostitution Reform Act 2003 legalised and regulated the sex trade which means brothels, as long as they comply with the rules, are legitimate businesses.

This is about fairness. The cost of monitoring brothels has reduced thanks to a high degree of co-operation from the prostitution sector. Under the proposed changes the city's sex industry would get credit for that.

Mr Crosby said proposed increases affecting other industries were in line with the Consumer Price Index.

The council has to be dispassionate when it comes to charges otherwise it could be accused of bias.

It deserves credit for taking a balanced view of its charges with one notable exception. It would, in my view, be mean-spirited to start charging children under-16 to camp at McLaren Falls.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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