New signage regulations for residential brothels mean streets housing families and children could easily become a K'Rd-style red light district, a lobby group says.
Under the new council rules, brothels in residential Auckland will soon be allowed small signs advertising their sex services -- but flashing lights or sexualised shapes and images are being ruled out.
The move is part of Auckland Council's review of different bylaws inherited from seven councils, and the replacement regional bylaw will be effective from October 1.
Bob McCoskrie, national director of right-wing lobby group Family First, said brothels should not be in residential areas or near sensitive sites such as schools, churches or marae -- no matter how large or small.
"The bylaws needs to give priority to the concerns and demands of families and create a bylaw that minimises the harms of the flawed Prostitution Reform Act.
"In 2013, residents in an Auckland suburb were upset that a cluster of premises offering commercial sex were operating within a kilometre of one another in an upmarket Auckland city-fringe suburb, and there was nothing they could do.
"To now allow signage on all these places will simply add further aggravation to families who don't want their children confronted with this industry."
Mr McCoskrie said the council's suggestion that the Advertising Standards Authority or the Human Rights Commission would deal with complaints was "naive and flawed".
"Both bodies are slow to act, come after the advertising damage has been done, and based on history are more likely to protect the brothels than consider the concerns of families."
Mr McCoskrie said residential brothels were not discreet, and there were also concerns about noise, traffic, intimidation, litter, and late night visit.
Specialist local government lawyer Dr Grant Hewison said the new bylaw was "a significant change".
"Under the legacy Manukau City Council Brothels Bylaw, signs could not be visible from a residential zone. Now signs advertising commercial sexual services are permitted in residential zones.
"The bylaw also prohibited words that were sexually explicit, lewd or offensive, whereas the new bylaw does not address these matters."
Prostitutes Collective regional coordinator Annah Pickering said brothels in residential areas were small, owner-operated businesses.
"They work from home and tend to be discreet."
The chairman of the council hearings panel which approved the signage bylaw, George Wood, said no one had asked for the residential signs but replacing the bylaw by October was legally necessary.
Council bylaws enforcement manager Max Wilde said the signage bylaw specified standards for signage content, with the same rules applying to other businesses.
The last registered figures for brothels was 20 in the former Auckland City Council area, three in Manukau and three in the North Shore.
Mr Wilde said the intent was to allow brothels to operate as normal businesses, subject to planning requirements under the Unitary Plan.
Since July 1 last year, brothels have not required a health protection licence to operate in Auckland.
• Publicly visible signage no bigger than 0.33sq m allowed for in residential zones or 1sq m in all other zones.
• To be mounted to fence or wall of premises.
• Can contain name of the operator or registered business, street number, telephone number.
• Flashing lights, changeable messages, sexualised shapes or images not allowed.