More than $40k from city council to pay outreach co-ordinator for street sex workers

Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King
Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King
Christchurch city councillors have thrown their support behind the city's sex workers.

In their meeting on Thursday, councillors decided to give $40,099 to the New Zealand Prostitutes' Collective to fund the wages of a Christchurch-based street outreach co-ordinator.

The decision went against the city council staff recommendation that only $14,099 be given to the collective, because the organisation was already in "a good financial position".

However, Cr Jake McLellan moved a motion to grant the full $40,099 requested by the collective. This was supported by the majority of councillors and subsequently passed.

Jake McLellan.
Jake McLellan.
"I think this is really, really important work that we should be trying to support as much as possible," McLellan said.

"I know first-hand how much of a difference this outreach co-ordinator has made."

The city council began collaborating with the collective in 2017 when it awarded a grant of $40,000 to initiate the street outreach co-ordinator.

The main purpose of the co-ordinator when it began was to alleviate tension in communities over some sex workers moving north of Manchester St, past Bealey Ave, into the St Albans and Edgeware area.

Street closures and road works after the February 22, 2011, earthquake pushed some street sex workers away from Manchester St.

The outreach co-ordinator helps sex workers move away from locations that have the potential to cause public unrest, while also providing them with safe sex products, violence prevention information and other support services.

The city council also saw the co-ordinator's work as crucial to ensuring the safety of sex workers, especially considering five street-based sex workers have been murdered in the city over the years, including one over the previous summer holidays.

Cr Mike Davidson appreciated the importance of the co-ordinator but was concerned the increased amount given towards the collective would exhaust the metropolitan discretionary response fund from where the money was allocated from.

Mike Davidson.
Mike Davidson.

"The amount we have in this [metropolitan discretionary response fund] is limited and the problem is if we spend it all when we get these applications, we will get halfway through the financial year and the whole fund will be exhausted," he said.

"I would love to give more money to all these groups who are asking for it, but we only have a limited amount."

However, Deputy Mayor Andrew Mayor said it was a worthy investment.

"We are almost a third of the way through the financial year, I would prefer to get these funds out there so they can have positive benefits to our communities," he said.

"I really think this project is one where supporting (it) now to a greater degree will actually avoid problems that we will almost inevitably have to play a role in solving later."

Crs Sam MacDonald, Mike Davidson, Tim Scandrett, Aaron Keown and Pauline Cotter voted against the grant.






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