Keep Discovering

The Press-News column Sep 3

Street Prostitution in Christchurch.

Jonathan and his young family no longer use the front rooms of their Manchester St house, after dark.  They’ve been forced to confine themselves to the back half of their home, due to the loud, offensive and explicit activity that pollutes the front of their property, night after night. And in the morning, their front garden and driveway often resembles a dumping ground, of bodily fluids, faeces, food wrappers and other filth. So, despite the hapless endeavours of the police and city council to encourage the street prostitutes to stay out of Manchester Street’s northern residential end, the problem persists. Over the weekend, I checked out the street trade – not in search of a pick-up, but a perve. Sure enough, the hookers were fanned out on the footpath in the residential area. I’d only be in the street half a minute, before one worker flashed her lunchbox at me. You wouldn’t  have to linger here long before concluding that the street has been declared a Summary Offences Act-free zone. Would our authorities be so indifferent to this nocturnal circus, if it was Holmwood Rd or Merivale Lane, that was infested by this cesspit? Ten years ago, New Zealand’s world-leading Prostitution Reform Act pledged to “clean up the industry and make it safe. “ But how can soliciting on the street , ever really be clean or safe, given its inherent dangers ?  To use that great teenage vernacular, “Get a room!” Unlike the licensed brothels and owner-operated  escort services, the street trade represents the seediest, drug-riddled and deadliest arm of the industry – as Christchurch knows only too well. You only have to look at the shady minders and drug-pushers who “supervise” Manchester Street, to surmise that this is the underworld in action. Several years ago, I was renting a house in Cashmere. I subsequently discovered the property had previously been used as a small suburban brothel. None of my neighbours had twigged, because it was run discreetly, smartly and professionally.  And unlike the street trade, Inland Revenue probably got their slice of the cake, too. So beyond Cr. Aaron Keown’s signage gimmick, how should street prostitution be tackled? No homeowner should ever have to tolerate this in-your-face racket taking root, outside their fence. The most practical answer is to either specifically outlaw street prostitution, and prosecute the kerb-crawling clients, or empower councils to tightly regulate and restrict where the street trade can operate. It’s contemptible that Parliament has faffed about as the problem has festered. The Prostitution Amendment Bill, which would give local councils the clout to regulate the street trade, remains languishing in the legislative queue. And Jonathan’s family keeps waiting.

Mike Yardley’s weekly column in The Press.  First published September 3.

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