26 May 2017

Anger over delay on Chch sex worker rules

9:16 am on 26 May 2017

Sex workers and Christchurch residents are both angry that the city's council has not been able to decide how to deal with street prostitution.

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

A sex worker on Christchurch's Manchester Street. Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

St Albans homeowners have been pushing for the council to move prostitutes back into the city, after the earthquakes forced them out of a known red light district and into their neighbourhood six years ago.

Since then residents have told the council they have been abused, assaulted, and had their properties vandalised.

Giles Goulden moved his family from their Manchester Street home after he said his wife was assaulted by a sex worker.

"I didn't feel safe leaving [my wife] at home so we moved, we took quite a financial loss, but it was important to me that ... my wife was safe," he said.

Residents say they have pleaded for the council to enforce their own public places bylaw or introduce new regulation.

The council decided yesterday to delay a decision again, and to set up an inter-agency group to look at solutions.

Deputy mayor Andrew Turner said this would ensure an outcome that would satisfy everyone.

"A lot could probably be done in three or four months that would then inform the discussion about whether a regulatory approach is, in fact, desirable or not," he said.

St Albans resident Matt Bonis said the council's decision was very disappointing.

"The suggestion we haven't looked at all of the options is just wrong," he said.

The only councillor who was pushing to explore regulation, Aaron Keown, said the delay would not help sex workers.

"They are human beings, they are someone's daughter, and they need to be safe as well, but that does not need to be on residential doorsteps", he said.

The Prostitutes Collective, which was against tighter controls, was also angry about the delay.

Its national co-ordinator, Catherine Healy, said she hoped the council would rule out regulation and instead look at options such as building infrastructure in areas sex workers could sell their services without disrupting residents.

"It's very frustrating ... it's time and energy for us and there is still uncertainty for residents and sex workers," she said.

The council is expected to make a decision based off the findings of the working group in September.

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