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The Press-News column. May 13

The Street Sex Trade in Christchurch.

How crass, how churlish, how crude that at a time when the city is facing a half a billion dollar financial hole over the rebuild, the council is splashing  the cash on an open-air brothel facility in Manchester Street.  Beyond establishing a needle receptacle, toilet block, lighting and security cameras, why didn’t the council go the whole hog and really roger the ratepayer by throwing in a steam room, spa and bondage dungeon? To use that great teenage catchphrase, “ Get a room!.” A decade ago, New Zealand’s world-leading Prostitution Reform Act pledged to “clean up the industry and make it safe. “ But how can street sex ever really be clean or safe, given its inherent dangers ?  Unlike the licensed brothels and owner-operated suburban services, the street trade represents the seediest, drug-riddled and deadliest arm of the industry – as Christchurch knows only too well. Just look at the creeps and drug-pushers who act as “minders” in Manchester Street. This is the underworld in action. And unlike the licensed businesses and professional escorts, you can bet your bottom dollar that Inland Revenue gets screwed by the street trade too. In fact, most street workers are really sticking it to the taxpayer, by concurrently drawing a benefit.  Why don’t we specifically outlaw street prostitution, and prosecute both the seller and the kerb-crawling clients, as is the case in Scandinavia and in most Australian states? The Prostitution Amendment Bill, which would give local councils the clout to regulate or prohibit the street trade, remains languishing in the House. Our council should be badgering parliament to pass the legislation, as Auckland is, rather than indirectly aiding and abetting the livelihood of the illicit drug trade and pandering to Manchester St’s  lunchbox line-up.

Closing the Hole.

As we grapple with the KordaMentha report on the $500 million rebuild shortfall, the city council would be wise to commit to two non-negotiables. No more new borrowing and no added increases to the rates track. Bravo to Cr. Jamie Gough who’s been quick out of the starting blocks, with some conversation-starters on how to plug the shortfall. Gough proposes selling the council’s housing stock to Housing New Zealand, selling off City Care and Red Bus, and scaling back the Town Hall repair programme to the Auditorium only.  Laudable, pragmatic stuff. But what about the stadium? Delaying the roof and cutting the permanent capacity to 30,000 would save $105 million. The council’s insurer still maintains AMI Stadium is repairable. Should the council save itself $200 million, bite the bullet and agree to the Lancaster Park facility being fully reinstated?

Mike Yardley’s current affairs column, as published in The Press. May 13.


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