Call to get prostitutes off streets

By Vaimoana Tapaleao

The mess left behind by street prostitution, including used condoms and syringes, has prompted councillors in South Auckland to call for a change in the law.

Manukau City Council is to present the Government with recommendations it says will help cut the number of prostitutes on the streets, and the associated social problems they bring.

Dick Quax, a Pakuranga councillor and Manukau's community safety portfolio leader, said the recommendations were a result of calls from the community who have to deal with the problems.

"The community has had enough. It's not fun to come out in the morning and be having to clean up condoms lying in your garden and on the fence. Cleaning up condoms and needles - it's just not fair."

One recommendation is the complete repeal of the Prostitution Reform Act. Introduced in 2003, the act saw the legalisation of prostitution and brought in safety provisions - like the compulsory use of condoms - to protect street workers.

Figures from a Prostitution Law Review Committee report in 2005 showed of the estimated 423 sex workers in the Counties Manukau area, 150 were street prostitutes.

In 2005, Manukau City Council proposed legislation which would give it control over street prostitution, which would have given it the power to ban them. But conflicting laws within Auckland saw Parliament's local government and environmental committee rejecting the bill.

Areas including Hunters Corner in Papatoetoe, parts of Great South Rd in Manurewa and areas in Otara, Mangere and Old Papatoetoe had been identified as some of the hot spots for street workers.

Mr Quax said a lot of those areas had dealt with problems involving prostitutes, including criminal activity, drug use and intimidation.

Shopkeepers are forced to clean streets of used condoms while children walking to school in the mornings faced potential health risks, he said.

"There are kids going to school with condoms lying on the street and prostitutes still standing around. It's dangerous, not only for the workers themselves but for the rest of the community. We're sick of it.

"There are a whole lot of other issues surrounding street prostitution."

Catherine Healy, the national co-ordinator of the New Zealand Prostitutes Collective, said she opposed the outlawing of street prostitution just because it caused litter.

"Issues around condoms being dropped and litter - there are litter laws. You don't need to criminalise sex workers altogether - put in more rubbish bins," she said, adding that the issue only concerned a small number of workers.

"There's a high number of transgendered workers and it's their means of income. For other women, it's the means to support children - you can't prosecute them for that."

Justice Minister Simon Power, who opposed the Prostitution Reform Bill when it was brought before Parliament, yesterday told the Herald that reviewing the act was not on the Government's immediate legislative programme.

However, he said, he would "be happy to discuss these issues with the council in general terms".

STOPPING THE ROT

Manukau's recommendations include:
* The repeal or amendment of the Prostitution Reform Act 2003.
* Street prostitution to be made illegal nationwide.
* For local councils to have the power to ban street prostitution.

- NZ Herald

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