Anne Gibson

Property editor of the NZ Herald

No reason to ban high-rise brothel - report

The black-toned glass building will feature two storeys of LED screens. Photo / Supplied
The black-toned glass building will feature two storeys of LED screens. Photo / Supplied

Auckland's first high-rise brothel could be a magnet for crime and drugs yet that is no reason to ban it because prostitution is legal.

So says the official Auckland Council report from lead senior planner Jennifer Valentine, who backed the application and rejected moral and religious opposition, raising the ire of Monsignor David Tonks, pastoral assistant to the Catholic Bishop Pat Dunn, who opposes the brothel.

"I'm seriously disappointed," he said, noting how the area drew families and tourists and wondering what message people would get from the massive brothel with giant lit display sign.

"These places are often associated with importing women for the sex trade and it's a tragedy," he said.

But Jennifer Valentine told how because activities within the proposed 15-level tower were permitted, she could not consider "moral or religious objections, nor potential increases in illegal activities such as crime and drug use".

She also acknowledged that of the 221 submissions opposing the development, 208 were because it will be a brothel.

Not all 15 levels would be for prostitution: the brothel would be in only 13 rooms on level three and on the mezzanine level where a brothel entertainment area would operate, her report said.

Via PHVS Project, Wellington's John and Michael Chow have applied to build opposite the SkyTower at 75 Victoria St West and she said activities in the building were permitted and included offices, food and beverage.

The Chows needed permission because they were putting up a new building, providing non-permanent accommodation, wanting building signs, had a shortfall of loading space numbers and dimensions, wanted to building within a defined road boundary and to build on a site which was subject to a heritage status. But the report did not knock them back on any of these points.

"Subject to new or contrary evidence presented at the hearing, it is my recommendation that the application for resource consent be granted, subject to conditions," Ms Valentine said.

When the brothel plans - designed by Clark Brown Architects - emerged in January, opposition came from Waitemata Local Board member and planner Christopher Dempsey, Auckland's Catholic leader Bishop Pat Dunn, heritage advocate Allan Matson and SkyCity Entertainment Group general counsel Peter Treacy.

A huge LED screen to be attached to the side of the brothel and objectors said that was too large, would be too distracting, moving and unsuitable.

But the Chows say the screen will not show words, text, numbers or direct photographic imagery, nor will it be used to advertise the brothel or show activities within. Instead, they say the screen will be "an animated graphic device with changing images that will provide visual interest to the building".

Anti-brothel submissions to the council cited fears about the use of a rooftop garden for alcohol-related events. These could give rise to considerable noise, objectors said. The site was also adjacent to the area known as Nga Wharau a Tako, an area of significant heritage value to Maori which had not been assessed, an objector said.

WHY PEOPLE HATE IT:

Of 221 submissions to Auckland Council, 220 opposed the tower. Gripes included:

# 208 because it is a brothel

# 19 for historic building demolition

# 18 for new block being out of scale for area

# 13 hate a proposed LED exterior screen

# 5 for design not respecting character area

# 4 saying new building should "duplicate" old

# 3 for new block being out of character

# 3 wanting a lower-rise structure

# 2 wanting building banned for 5-10 years

- APNZ

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