Mayor says brothel rule not too strict

The illegal brothel was located in Huff St, Queenstown. Photo: Daisy Hudson
The illegal brothel was located in Huff St, Queenstown. Photo: Daisy Hudson
Queenstown's mayor says the resort is a "family-friendly" destination and there is no issue with brothels, after two migrant sex workers were deported and an illegal brothel shut down.

Both the Queenstown Lakes District Council and Immigration New Zealand received complaints about a brothel operating illegally in Huff St late last year.

Queenstown has strict rules on where brothels can operate and the legal area is limited to a small portion of the CBD.

Huff St is well outside the permitted area, and 700m from Queenstown Primary School.

That, coupled with immigration laws around sex work, can lend itself to the exploitation of migrants, NZ Prostitutes Collective (NZPC) founder Dame Catherine Healy said.

However, Mayor Jim Boult believed the bylaw was not too strict, and said most people supported tough restrictions on where brothels could operate.

Council staff determined a brothel was operating at the Huff St property and ordered it be shut down in September.

A Huff St resident, who did not want to be named, said there were several Asian women working as escorts in an apartment building on the street.

They were "very busy", he said, speculating there would have been "tens of thousands of dollars" going through the business each week.

Immigration NZ confirmed it received an anonymous tip, visited the property and served two foreign nationals with deportation notices.

Dame Catherine said sex work was the only occupation migrants here on a work visa could not do.

That restriction, alongside the tough bylaw, could make migrant sex workers reluctant to seek support if they had issues or became victims of crime.

"It is quite worrying for us.

"We certainly don’t want people being shut away from accessing support."

She said strict bylaws like Queenstown’s were based on a "bogyman" fear, rather than reality.

"Sex workers are obviously not there to entertain people under the age of 18. It’s an adult activity, like a lot of activities are."

Under the council’s Brothel Control Bylaw 2017, brothels also cannot be located in the ground floor of a building, or within 100m of another brothel.

Mr Boult said he personally did not support brothels, but admitted they did provide a level of security for sex workers.

He did not believe the resort’s bylaw was too restrictive.

"I think we are a family-friendly holiday destination, we’ve got strong community values, and I think most people support the bylaw."

Queenstown’s council said it received one other complaint about an illegal brothel last year, in June.

In that instance, it investigated but found it was operating legally.

In 2015, council staff investigated reports of an illegal brothel operating in Melbourne St.

The resort’s last long-running brothel, Candy’s, closed in 2008.

But the Huff St resident said he believed an escort service was once again being run from the Huff St building.

He believed they were advertising on a popular escort website.

This week, there were four women based in Queenstown offering escort services on the website.

He said INZ officials visited the unit occupied by the women late last year, and the women left soon after.

Compliance assistant general manager Peter Devoy said migrants who were not New Zealand permanent residents were not permitted to work in the industry.

"The district council advised the address was not a registered brothel.

"In October, INZ compliance officers visited the property and located two foreign nationals who were working unlawfully in the sex industry.

"Both were served deportation liability notices."

- Daisy Hudson


Busy. People in and out of houses all day long. I've seen - I mean, I've heard of it being done.