18 Apr 2017

Sex worker strife: 'We've had vandalism, we've had break-ins'

2:26 pm on 18 April 2017

Central Christchurch residents say they are under siege from sex workers, and one is threatening legal action if the city council does nothing.

The Oldest Profession, a sex worker on Karangahape Road in Auckland

A Christchurch bylaw states that "no person may undertake commercial activities in a public place" without council permission. Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

Manchester Street was a well-known red light district that attracted sex workers for years, but after the earthquakes many moved north of the CBD into residential areas.

Manchester Street resident Matt Bonis has had sex workers outside his family home almost every night, and he said they do not always leave the area to service their clients.

"We've had litter, we've had vandalism, we've had break-ins ... we've had faeces, needles, all that sort of stuff left on private property as well," he said.

Mr Bonis said a CCTV camera installed by the city council last year was not helping, and more needed to be done.

"Ironically the girls see it as big infrastructure for their benefit so we have actually seen more of them than we had previously," he said.

The Oldest Profession, Manchester Street, area street sex workers operate from

Manchester Street is a well known red light district. Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

Mr Bonis said if the council could sort out issues with boy-racers and car window cleaners, they could do the same with disruptive sex workers.

However, Christchurch City Council head of strategic policy, Helen Beaumont, said the issue was complicated.

"There is a clause in the bylaw against commercial activity on city streets, but part of the problem enforcing that is that service between sex workers and their clients often doesn't take place in a public place," she said.

The Oldest Profession, a sex worker waits on Manchester Street in Christchurch

A sex worker waiting on Manchester Street. Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

The Christchurch Public Places bylaw states that "no person may undertake commercial activities in a public place, without the written permission of the Council".

Ms Beaumont said enforcement also had its challenges.

"It's quite difficult to prove that anything is being sold or advertised in a public place," she said.

However, Mr Bonis said the CCTV camera that the city council installed would provide all of the evidence it needed.

The New Zealand Prostitutes' Collective are to present potential solutions at a city council meeting in May, but Mr Bonis said he may take the matter to court if nothing was done.