The operation of an unlicensed brothel next to a primary school in Ponsonby has been put forward as evidence that prostitution laws are flawed - but the Auckland Council says to shut it would be unfair.

Residents have circulated flyers drawing attention to Firecats Escorts operating from a Brown St apartment near Richmond Rd Primary School.

The school year begins on February 7 but the council has opted not to use its powers to shut the brothel while it processes a resource consent application.

Brothels are considered "entertainment facilities" and can operate near the school because the area is zoned for mixed business use.

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However, because Firecats is within 30m of a residential zone, it is required to apply for consent, which it did late last month.

The application has been on hold since the council asked the brothel's owners for more information on Wednesday. They have 15 working days to respond - but can operate in the meantime.

Waitemata Local Board member Tricia Reade, who has received more than 20 complaints from residents, said that made little sense.

"I am surprised that it is an activity that's allowed to continue before it gets resource consent. It makes a fool of the law, I think.

"I'm not against brothels. It's a legal activity. But I would have thought any brothel owner would think twice about putting it next to a school."

The national director of lobby group Family First, Bob McCoskrie, said the situation showed prostitution laws needed to be amended.

"For a large-scale brothel with up to 30 prostitutes to be able to open in an apartment block right next to a school shows that the law has failed."

A council spokesman said the precedent set by previous court cases meant it would "probably be unfair" to close the brothel immediately.

"We need to be fair and reasonable in the application of the district plan, and consistent in the way that we approach enforcement cases."

Richmond Rd School chairman Ewen Mackenzie-Bowie said because the brothel was legal "there's not much we can do about it".

He said the school would have liked the application processed and refused before classes resumed.

"We don't want to expose our children to more risk than normal life exposes them to."

Firecats did not return the Herald's calls.