The dispute over sex workers being able to solicit in a residential area could be tested in the courts, a Christchurch lawyer says.

St Albans resident Matt Bonis, along with solicitor and Labour candidate for Christchurch Central Duncan Webb presented a slide show to the city council recently detailing the rubbish, abuse, complaints and threats they have received.

Webb told Star.kiwi the dispute lies in the definition of "commercial activity" set out in the city council public places bylaw.

City council head of strategic policy Helen Beaumont said sex workers do not use the billboards and banners that are typical of other business enterprises.

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"The mere presence of a person on a street corner, even if the manner of their attire and behaviour suggest that they may be working, is insufficient evidence that a commercial activity is being advertised or carried out," Beaumont said.

But Webb said they have got the definition wrong and the city council could enforce the bylaw.

He said if it comes down to residents saying it is commercial activity, and the city council says it isn't, then it will have to be tested in the courts.

Bonis said he has no problem paying for Webb's time to take it to court, or work with city council staff to find a solution within the bylaw.

"I'm hopeful the city councillors, on an individual level, will take a commonsense approach to this problem," he said.

A report is due on May 4 detailing if a new clause in the public places bylaw is needed or if section 13 of the current bylaw can be effectively enforced.

Section 13 states: The city council may declare from time to time, that any public place, or specified part of a public place: a) Has been set aside for special use or activity; or b) cannot be used for a particular use or activity.

Beaumont said the city council is looking at using section 13 to solve the sex worker problem in the residential area.

"The city council has obtained legal advice on the ability to enforce this policy in relation to sex workers but there are significant enforcement difficulties," she said.