Isaac Davison

Isaac Davison is a NZ Herald political reporter.

Prostitution ban splits select committee

The bill has been slow to progress because it was expanded to cover Auckland, instead of just Manukau, when the Super City was created. Photo / Jason Dorday
The bill has been slow to progress because it was expanded to cover Auckland, instead of just Manukau, when the Super City was created. Photo / Jason Dorday

A parliamentary committee is still wrangling over whether the Government should ban prostitution from Auckland's troublespots.

The committee will hear submissions on the bill today, more than two years after it was introduced by former Labour MP George Hawkins.

There has been interest in the law change because other cities, in particular Christchurch, were keen to have similar powers to ban prostitution near schools, family homes or sports facilities.

The bill has been slow to progress because it was expanded to cover Auckland, instead of just Manukau, when the Super City was created.

And there is still disagreement within the select committee on whether the problem could be dealt with by the Auckland Council instead of through costly and complex legislation.

Labour MP for Manukau East Ross Robertson, the bill's sponsor, said the council wanted to target three specific areas where the sex industry clashed with community activity.

These spots were in Otahuhu, Manurewa, and at Hunters Corner in Papatoetoe.

Committee chairwoman Nicky Wagner said the members needed to clarify whether legislation was the best way to deal with the problem, or whether it could be dealt with through bylaws.

The committee sought a legal opinion which confirmed that the council could ban street workers from specific areas with local laws.

But Auckland Council contested this, saying that prostitution law reforms in 2004 did not give it the power to regulate street prostitution.

It also said the job required trained police officers, not council officers.

Mr Robertson: "Councils have limited provisions. And the local community feel that the police would not give the issue a high priority."

If the legislation passed, it would give police powers of arrest, and the power to stop and search vehicles.

The bill would allow fines of up to $2000 for street workers and their clients.

Local boards believe that warnings to customers would be enough to encourage the industry to move to a new, recommended area.

The Otara-Papatoetoe local board offered street workers a site 1km away from Hunters Corner but it was not accepted.

The bill passed its first reading in a conscience vote by 82 votes to 36.

- NZ Herald

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