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Councillors in Tauranga are clashing with prostitutes over a rule that would force home-based sex workers to operate alone. Tauranga City councillors have asked the council's policy team to look for a way to enforce a rule that only one prostitute can operate out of a property in a residential area. The New Zealand Prostitutes' Collective has slammed the move, saying it would put sex workers' safety at risk as well as unfairly limit a legal business.
The council had legal advice that its Prostitution Bylaw , currently up for review, could be open to a court challenge on its treatment of small owner-operated brothels. Currently, only one-person home-based commercial sex businesses were excluded from rules restricting brothels to parts of the city's CBDs not within m of schools, daycares or churches. The Prostitution Reform Act allowed up to four independent sex workers to operate together in a small owner-operated brothel.
Councillor Steve Morris asked staff to look for a way to keep a one-worker cap for residential areas. He was supported by a few other councillors including Larry Baldock who, as a United Future MP in , tried to have the Act repealed.
Morris said his issue was not with sex workers but with their clients, and that his personal religious beliefs had no bearing on his stance. He said that if sex workers were not safe from their clients, then neither were other people in their neighbourhoods - all the more reason prostitution should be restricted to commercial or industrial areas.
In a council meeting, Morris described reports of men "preparing themselves" while waiting on the side of the road for appointments with prostitutes. He later confirmed to the Bay of Plenty Times that by "preparing" he was referring to "lewd" acts. Discretion, she said, was paramount in the business and clients would go to lengths to avoid being noticed. She said at the very least sex workers should be allowed to work in pairs for safety reasons and to share operational business costs.