A plea for the Auckland Council to keep brothels out of residential areas has been made by a leader of the Remuera community where an unlicensed brothel has closed after neighbours reported it.

The council issued an abatement notice at the Ascot Ave house because the brothel needed a resource consent.

Orakei Local Board chairwoman Desley Simpson told the council's regulatory and bylaws committee the board had received several complaints about suburban brothels over the year.

Complaints included a brothel on a walking school bus route, and people dressed inappropriately within a brothel property.

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Ms Simpson said she accepted "brothels are what happens in a big city". But any new regional bylaw for commercial sex premises should ban them from residential areas and specify a minium distance that they must maintain from schools and churches.

"I prefer we get them out of residential areas so people have a choice whether they are going to be around them or not. I'd like them to be all based in the red light district."

Although several local boards prefer a residential ban, the Prostitutes Collective and some in the industry want the industry to should be self-regulated.

Next year, the council will settle its review of brothel bylaws inherited from the seven former territorial councils, with the aim of having the same across the region.

"We need to look at a range of tools," said regional and local planning manager Penny Pirrit.

For example, the "home occupation" rule in district plans allowed a small owner-operated brothel, with four or less workers. Having more than that number would make it a commercial business and an abatement notice would be issued.

Community policy team leader Michael Sinclair said tools for regulating the location of brothels and commercial sex premises included the district plans and bylaws of the former councils.

Only the Waitakere City Council defined and regulated brothel locations in its district plan. Other councils' plans regulated location through zoning and home occupation rules.

But the former Auckland City Council bylaw on location was quashed by the High Court for being overly restrictive.

Any attempt to prevent small owner-operated brothels in residential areas was unlikely to stand up to legal challenge.

"Feedback from licensing and compliance officers indicates that specific location controls in bylaws are difficult to enforce, as they must prove that a brothel is operating - rather than simply proving that a commercial activity is occurring."

Mr Sinclair said an alternative course would be to place other controls on these businesses, such as specifying hours of trade, to ensure they did not disturb the neighbourhood with traffic or noises at unusual times.