A Christchurch City Council committee has today recommended the council does not pursue a bylaw to regulate street-based sex work in Manchester St despite angry residents saying the trade is ruining their lives.
At a full council meeting in May, staff were asked to investigate the feasibility of introducing such a bylaw and to report back, through the committee, on their findings.
Residents of the area of Manchester St north of Bealey Ave have complained about street-based sex workers in the area since the 2011 earthquake.
"We're prisoners in our own home," resident Matt Bonis said last month.
Bonis told the council's Regulatory Performance Committee today the council was "abdicating all responsibility" by not introducing a bylaw.
Sex workers who had traditionally frequented Manchester St south of Bealey Ave were forced out of that area when the city was cordoned after the 2011 earthquake.
They have been reluctant to move back there because of roadworks, they say.
Residents north of Bealey Ave say although some sex workers have moved closer to the CBD, some have not and they and their associates continue to cause problems.
Bonis and his neighbours have found needles and syringes, human faeces, used condoms and litter on their properties. Vandalism to houses and cars have been reported, as well as thefts. One elderly couple found a prostitute "servicing a client" on their lawn at 3am and when they asked them to leave, had their car vandalised.
Attempts to ask the prostitutes to move on are often met with threats and intimidation, locals say.
Bonis made a police complaint last year after three prostitutes allegedly threatened to burn his house down at 3am with his family inside.
The trade starts about 10pm and often goes through to 6am or 7am.
"They yell price lists to their clients, they yell all sorts to each other. My son who is now 11 knows the price lists, he knows what a transvestite is. It's everything you try and protect your children from," Bonis says.
Since 2011, Bonis and fellow residents have tried to get help from police, both local and central government, and the New Zealand Prostitutes Collective, to try to move the sex workers away from the residential zone.
Bonis says he's made more than 300 calls over the last six years to police over noise and other complaints.
"It's got to the point where they don't respond at all now," he says.
The residents have been campaigning for a bylaw to ban the sex workers from the residential area. Some have already given up, sold up, and moved on.
But today, after considering the limited legal options available, staff recommended against pursuing a bylaw.
Instead, the report has recommended establishing a collaborative community working group comprising non-government organisations, police and affected residents to address the issues of concern.
They have recommended the council, in partnership with the New Zealand Prostitutes Collective, form a collaborative community working group that will include the non-government organisations, the police, and affected residents to work on ways of encouraging the street-based sex workers to move.
The council will consider the committee's recommendations next month.
Bonis is now engaged with lawyers and exploring possible legal avenues.
He fears that without regulation, the situation will only worsen for residents like him.
"The next step is either to go to the High Court or leave. They're the two choices that the council and the police have left us," he says.
"To me, the argument is black and white: should a commercial activity be allowed in a residential area at night? And the answer to that is no."