Lincoln Tan

Lincoln Tan is the New Zealand Herald’s diversity, ethnic affairs and immigration senior reporter.

Illegal brothels shut in crackdown

A number of brothels in residential areas have been raided and closed in a crackdown on law-breaking sex workers in Auckland.

Authorities are understood to have searched, among other premises, a central city apartment and an address in Mt Albert.

Details of the raids come weeks after the raid on an unlicensed brothel with more than 30 sex workers operating from a first-floor Brown St apartment, next to the Richmond Rd Primary School in Ponsonby.

"Over the last six months, the council has investigated and undertaken enforcement action in a number of residential locations where complaints have been received regarding alleged brothels operating unlawfully," said Angela Jones, a spokeswoman for the Auckland Council.

"In most instances, the council found that the number of people working on the site exceeded the numbers permitted by the district plan.

"Abatement notices were issued ordering them to comply with the plan."

Brothels in residential areas are allowed to have only two sex workers, and the main use of the building still has to be residential. The Herald understands that several home brothels have closed down since the raids, including one in a central city apartment building and another in Woodward Rd, Mt Albert.

Ms Jones said the council's district plan enforcement team acted mainly on complaints from the public.

She said a search warrant was executed at Woodward Rd on February 3, but further details could not be provided as the council was "considering the findings of that warrant, and what action if any should be taken".

A sex worker, who has worked at several home brothels including Woodward Rd, said many operators were on high alert after the recent council and police raids.

She said working girls had been asked to check first and ensure no more than one other sex worker was on the property before turning up for work.

"The council has definitely stepped up raiding home brothels.

"Sometimes they will come with the police even more than once a day."

Annah Pickering, New Zealand Prostitutes' Collective Auckland manager, said home brothels were a popular choice for sex workers because they could work flexible hours.

THE LAW

* A home occupation brothel is permitted in residential zones where the occupant and one other person can work for up to 40 hours a week.
* The use of the property for sex work has to be "incidental and secondary", and the main use must still be for residential purpose.
* Commercial brothels are classed as "entertainment facilities" and are restricted to commercial or industrial zoned areas, unless a resource consent for a departure of rules and a brothel licence is obtained.

- NZ Herald

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