Policies

Managing the commercial sex industry

Auckland Council's regulation of the commercial sex industry extends to any business that is involved in the sale of sexual products and/or services. This includes:

  • brothels
  • small owner operated brothels (SOOBs)
  • adult retail stores
  • commercial sex entertainment venues (i.e. strip clubs)
  • street based sex work.

Since the decriminalisation of prostitution through the Prostitution Reform Act 2003, commercial sex businesses operate as legal and legitimate businesses. Therefore, territorial authorities' regulation of the commercial sex industry must not prohibit the normal operation of a commercial sex business.

The council does not have one policy or bylaw to manage the commercial sex industry. Instead there is a collection of local and central government statutes, legislative instruments, plans and bylaws relevant to managing different aspects of the commercial sex industry and its premises.

See more about the regulations and rules relevant to the commercial sex industry:


Definition of terms

The terms used align with definitions used in the Prostitution Reform Act 2003 and the Proposed Auckland Unitary Plan.

Brothel

Any premises kept or habitually used for the purposes of prostitution, but does not include premises at which accommodation is normally provided on a commercial basis if the prostitution occurs under an arrangement initiated elsewhere.

Small owner operator brothel (SOOB)

A small owner operator brothel (SOOB) is a brothel, at which no more than four sex workers work and where each of those sex workers retains control over his or her individual earnings from prostitution carried out at the brothel.

Commercial sex premises

Premises where sexual products and/or services are made accessible or available to the public. This includes brothels, massage parlours, strip clubs, escort agencies, adult bookshops, adult video stores, adult retail stores, or other activities relevant to sexual products, goods and services.

Commercial sex industry

Comprises of any business involved in providing commercial sex goods or services (e.g. brothels, strip clubs, escort agencies, adult bookshops, adult video stores, adult retail stores etc.)

Operator

An operator is a person who, whether alone or with others, owns, operates, controls or manages the business (of prostitution). An operator is any person who is the director of a company and/or a person who employs, supervises or directs any person in the business of prostitution. This includes (but is not limited to) when and where individual sex workers in the business work; the conditions in which sex workers in the business work or the amount or proportion of money that a sex worker receives as payment for prostitution.

Prostitution

The provision of commercial sexual services.


Brothels

The Prostitution Reform Act 2003 categorises two types of brothels.

A small owner operator brothel (SOOB) is a small brothel, where sex workers have individual control over their earnings and terms of work and there is no brothel operator. SOOBs must be small, only up to four owner-operator sex workers can operate from one premises. If there are more than four owner-operator sex workers operating from one premise, this does not qualify as a SOOB, but it is considered a brothel.

A 'brothel' does not have limits on the number of sex workers that can operate from a premise. However, if a brothel has an operator who manages the business, the operator is required to obtain a brothel operators certificate from the district court. A brothel operator, is a person who, whether alone or with others, manages, supervises, employs and directs sex workers. 
 
The regulatory tools that manage the location, operation and visibility of brothels and SOOBs are:

  • the Prostitution Reform Act 2003 (PRA 2003)
  • Prostitution (Operator Certificate) Regulations 2003
  • the Auckland Council Health and Hygiene Bylaw 2013
  • Films, Videos, and Publications Classification Act 1993
  • existing district plans until replaced by the Proposed Auckland Unitary Plan
  • Signage Bylaw 2015.

Location rules

The former councils' district plans contain guidance and rules relating to where different types of businesses can locate. As a business, SOOBs will need to comply with district plan rules.

Using district plans

To identify where to locate, a SOOBs must first identify what sort of 'activity' it is defined as in existing district plans. The former councils' district plans do not have specific definitions for brothels or SOOBs, with the exception of the Waitakere City Council District Plan. The activities and environmental effects of a SOOB, closely align with the definition of a 'massage parlour' or an 'entertainment facility'.

The Waitakere City Council District Plan has specific definitions for 'brothels' and 'small owner operator brothels' in its district plan. Refer to these if the premises is located in the former Waitakere City Council area.

SOOBs can locate in in residential zones as 'home occupations'. Home occupations have rules which regulate the hours of operation, number of employees and other matters. If SOOBs locate in residential zones, they must comply with the relevant 'home occupation' rules. 'Home occupation rules differ between former councils - refer to the relevant district plans for these rules.

SOOBs can locate in some business zones; but they must comply with the rules for that zone. For instance, if a SOOB locates in a ''Business zone 3', it must follow the relevant rules for that zone, for example, hours of operation, parking rules and gross floor area. These rules vary between former councils' district plan - refer to the relevant district plans for these rules.

When it becomes operative, the Proposed Auckland Unitary Plan will replace these former councils' district plans. It is likely to be operative in 2016 or 2017.

Brothel specific bylaws

Some of the former councils have brothel specific bylaws which apply to SOOBs. These bylaws will lapse on 31 October 2015.

Auckland Council is no longer issuing brothel licences.

Applicable licences for SOOBs

Under the Prostitution Reform Act 2003, a small owner operator brothel (SOOB) does not need a brothel operator's certificate, as sex workers are owner-operators and have individual control over their earnings and terms of work.

However, if there is an operator/s that manage the business, the operator/s will need to obtain a brothel operator's certificate. A brothel operator is a person who, whether alone or with others, manages, supervises, employs and directs sex workers.

If a SOOB sells alcohol, it must comply with all alcohol and licensing requirements.

Health and hygiene rules

Health and hygiene rules seek to protect public health and the health of sex workers.

Sex workers and clients must comply with Section 9 of the Prostitution Reform Act 2003, which requires sex works and clients to adopt safer sex practices.

There are health and hygiene guidelines for commercial sex premises as set out in the Health and Hygiene Bylaw 2014: Code of Practice for Commercial Sexual Services.

If the SOOB provides massage services, there are health and hygiene guidelines for massage providers as set out in the Health and Hygiene Bylaw 2014: Code of Practice for Massage.

Commercial sex premises as places of employment (including self- employment) must comply with Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992.

There are general occupational health and safety guidelines for the commercial sex industry. Refer to the Occupational Health and Safety Service Guidelines on 'Health and Safety in the New Zealand Sex Industry' (Work Safe New Zealand).

Public nuisance rules

Public nuisance refers to offensive or harmful behaviour of people, which can cause an inconvenience or annoyance to others.

To minimise nuisance to others, SOOBs must comply with general noise rules in the relevant district plans.

When in the public domain, the public must comply with Public Safety and Nuisance Bylaw 2013.

SOOBs could become a target of criticism if sex workers, clients and patrons cause a nuisance in public places.

Parking and traffic rules

Parking and traffic rules ensure that enough parking spaces are available for the activity and excessive amounts of traffic are appropriately managed.

Small owner operator brothels (SOOBs) that locate in residential areas must adhere to 'home occupation' rules as outlined in the relevant district plan. Home occupation rules require the provision of parking spaces; limit the number of car trips to and from the home occupation and limit hours of operation.

For all non-residential zones, there are parking provision rules outlined the appropriate district plan rules.

Visibility and signage rules

Visibility and signage rules seek to regulate the visibility of sex products, services and advertising in the public domain. These rules manage any externally visible signage but also the screening of sex services and products from the public.

The Prostitution Reform Act 2003 regulates the advertising of commercial sexual services. SOOBs cannot advertise services by broadcast (radio or television) or screen advertisements at a cinema. SOOBs can only advertise services in the classified advertisement section of a newspaper or periodical.

Signs

For publically visible signage (e.g. signs on buildings, sandwich boards), SOOBs should refer to the Signage Bylaw 2015.

The Signage Bylaw 2015 has general rules relating to types of signs, location and size of signs allowed, and has specific rules relating to signage for commercial sex premises. These rules control the nature and size of signs for commercial sex premises.

Generally, signage for SOOBs cannot be objectionable in keeping with the Films, Videos, and Publications Classification Act 1993.

Visibility

Existing district plans have urban design rules relating to the external appearance of premises when located at street level in certain areas. These rules control how visible the interior of premises is (e.g. level of window opacity, screening doors). These rules also control the architectural character of premises so it is compatible with its surrounds.

Some of these urban design rules are incompatible with the business of prostitution. In these cases, SOOBs will need to apply for resource consent to locate at street level in these areas. Urban design rules differ between former councils, refer to relevant district plans for these rules.

The former Waitakere City Council's district plan has specific urban design rules for brothels and SOOBs located on the ground level of town centres or main streets. Refer to these if the premises is within the former Waitakere City Council area.

Location rules

The former councils' district plans contain guidance and rules relating to where different types of businesses can locate. As a business, brothels will need to comply with district plan rules.

Using District Plans

To identify where to locate, a brothels must first identify what sort of 'activity' it is defined as in existing district plans. The former councils' district plans do not have specific definitions for brothels, with the exception of the Waitakere City Council District Plan. The activities and environmental effects of a brothel, closely align with the definition of a 'massage parlour' or an 'entertainment facility'.

The Waitakere City Council District Plan has specific definitions for 'brothels' and 'small owner operator brothels' in its district plan. Refer to these if the premises is located in the former Waitakere City Council area.

Brothels can locate in in residential zones as 'home occupations' providing it is of appropriate size and scale. District plans have home occupations rules that regulate the hours of operation, number of employees and other matters. If brothels locate in residential zones, they must comply with the relevant 'home occupation' rules. 'Home occupation rules differ between former councils, so refer to relevant district plans for these rules.

Brothels can locate in some business zones; but they must comply with the rules for that zone. For instance, if a brothel locates in a 'Business zone 3', it must follow the relevant rules for that zone, for example, hours of operation, parking rules and gross floor area. These rules vary between former councils' district plan, refer to the relevant district plans for these rules.

When it becomes operative, the Proposed Auckland Unitary Plan will replace these former councils' district plans. It is likely to be operative in 2016 or 2017.

Brothel specific bylaws

Some of the former councils have brothel specific bylaws. These bylaws will lapse on 31 October 2015.

Auckland Council is no longer issuing brothel licences.

Applicable licences for brothels

Brothel operators must apply for a brothel operators certificate at a district court, using the form prescribed on the Ministry of Justice website.

If a brothel sells alcohol, it must comply with all alcohol and licensing requirements.

Health and hygiene rules

Health and hygiene rules seek to protect public health and the health of sex workers.

Sex workers and clients must comply with Section 9 of the Prostitution Reform Act 2003, which requires sex workers and clients to adopt safer sex practices.

Brothel operators must comply with Section 8 of the Prostitution Reform Act 2003, which requires operators to promote and adopt safer sex practices in the business of prostitution.

There are health and hygiene guidelines that for commercial sex premises as set out in the Health and Hygiene Bylaw 2014: Code of Practice for Commercial Sexual Services.

If the brothel provides massage services, there are health and hygiene guidelines as set out in the Health and Hygiene Bylaw 2013: Minimum Health Standard for Massage.

Brothels as places of employment, must comply with Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992.

There are general occupational health and safety guidelines for the commercial sex industry. Refer to Occupational Health and Safety Service Guidelines on 'Health and Safety in the New Zealand Sex Industry' (Work Safe New Zealand).

Public nuisance rules

Public nuisance refers to offensive or harmful behaviour of people, which can cause an inconvenience or annoyance to others.

To minimise nuisance to others, brothels must comply with general noise rules in the relevant district plans.

When in the public domain, the public must comply with Public Safety and Nuisance Bylaw 2013.

Brothels could become a target of criticism if sex workers, clients and patrons cause a nuisance in public places.

Parking and traffic rules

Parking and traffic rules ensure that enough parking spaces are available for the activity and excessive amounts of traffic are appropriately managed.

Brothels that locate in residential areas, must adhere to 'home occupation' rules as outlined in the relevant district plan. Home occupation rules require the provision of parking spaces, limit the number of car trips to and from the home occupation; and limit hours of operation.

For all non-residential zones, there are parking provision rules outlined the relevant district plans.

Visibility and signage rules

Visibility and signage rules seek to regulate the visibility of sex products, services and advertising in the public domain. These rules manage any externally visible signage but also the screening of sex services and products from the public.

The Prostitution Reform Act 2003 regulates the advertising of commercial sexual services. Brothels cannot advertise services by broadcast (radio or television) or screen advertisements at a cinema. Brothels can only advertise services in the classified advertisement section of a newspaper or periodical.

Signs

For publically visible signage (e.g. signs on buildings, sandwich boards), brothels should refer to the Signage Bylaw 2015.

The Signage Bylaw 2015 has general rules relating to types of signs, location and size of signs allowed, and has specific rules relating to signage for commercial sex premises. These rules control the nature and size of signs for commercial sex premises.

Generally, signage for brothels cannot be objectionable in keeping with the Films, Videos, and Publications Classification Act 1993.

Visibility

Existing district plans have urban design rules relating to the external appearance of premises, when located at street level in certain areas. These rules control how visible the interior of premises is (e.g. level of window opacity, screening doors). These rules also control the architectural character of premises so it is compatible with its surrounds.

Some of these urban design rules are incompatible with the business of prostitution. In these cases, brothels will need to apply for resource consent to locate at street level in these areas. Urban design rules differ between former councils, refer to relevant district plans for these rules.

The former Waitakere City Council's district plan has specific urban design rules for brothels and SOOBs located on the ground level of town centres or main streets. Refer to these if the premises is within the former Waitakere City Council area.


Adult retail stores

The controls relevant to adult retail stores regulate the location and visibility of these stores. There are controls that manage where these stores can locate and how visible signs and products sold in these stores are to the public.

If a brothel and/or strip club is located on the same premise as an adult retail store, the relevant rules and regulations relating to brothels and strip clubs will also apply.

The regulatory tools that manage the location and visibility of adult retail stores are:

  • existing district plans until replaced by the Proposed Auckland Unitary Plan
  • Signage Bylaw 2015
  • Films, Videos, and Publications Classification Act 1993.

Location rules

Auckland Council has rules around where retail stores can locate across the region.

Adult retail stores closely align with the definition of retail activity in existing district plans. Therefore, adult retail stores are subject to rules for 'retail'. These rules outline which zones retail activity can locate in, hours of operation and parking provision.

Retail activity is generally not permitted in a residential zones under the existing district plan rules.

Retail activity is permitted in some Business zones depending on the gross floor area of these stores. Refer to the relevant district plans for specific rules.

Rodney District Council General Bylaw (Chapter 14)

The former Rodney District Council's Brothel and Commercial Sex Premises Bylaw have rules relating to the location of adult retail stores relative to a particular zone and other commercial sex premises. This bylaw will lapse on 31 October 2015.

Health and hygiene rules

As a place of employment, adult stores must comply with general rules for health and safety in employment under the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992.

Public nuisance rules

Public nuisance refers to offensive or harmful behaviour of people, which can cause an inconvenience or annoyance to others.

To minimise nuisance to others, adult retail stores must comply with general noise rules in the relevant district plans.

When in the public domain, the public must comply with Public Safety and Nuisance Bylaw 2013.

Parking and traffic rules

Parking and traffic rules ensure that the retail activity provides enough parking spaces and excessive amounts of traffic are appropriately managed.

As a retail activity, adult retail stores are subject to the same parking and traffic rules for Retail activity in the relevant district plan.

Visibility and signage rules

Signs

For publically visible signage (e.g. signs on buildings, sandwich boards), the Signage Bylaw 2015 applies.

The Signage Bylaw 2015 has general rules relating to types of signs, location and size of signs allowed.

Generally, signage for adult retail stores cannot be objectionable in keeping with the Films, Videos, and Publications Classification Act 1993.

Visibility

Existing district plans have urban design rules relating to the external appearance of premises, when located at street level in certain areas. These rules control how visible the interior of premises is (e.g. level of window opacity, screening doors). These rules also control the architectural character of premises so it is compatible with its surrounds.

Some of these urban design rules are incompatible with the products sold in adult retail stores. In these cases, adult retail stores will need to apply for resource consent to locate at street level in these areas. Urban design rules differ between former councils, refer to relevant district plans for these rules.


Commercial sex entertainment (e.g strip clubs)

As a provider of sexual products, entertainment and services; commercial sex entertainment venues or strip clubs, will need to comply with relevant rules and regulations. 

If a brothel is located on the same premises as a strip club, the relevant rules and regulations relating to brothels will apply.

If the commercial sex entertainment venue sells alcohol, it will also need to comply with alcohol licensing regulations.

The regulatory tools that are relevant to the location, operation and visibility of commercial sex entertainment venues are:  

  • existing district plans until replaced by the Proposed Auckland Unitary Plan
  • the Signage Bylaw 2015
  • the Films, Videos, and Publications Classification Act 1993.

Location rules

The former councils’ district plans contain guidance and rules relating to where different types of businesses can locate. As a business, strip clubs will need to comply with district plan rules.

Using District Plans

To identify where to locate, strip clubs must first identify what sort of 'activity' it is defined as in existing district plans. The activities and environmental effects of a strip club closely align with the definition of an ‘entertainment facility’. Therefore, strip clubs are subject to district plan rules for 'entertainment facilities'.

Strip clubs are prohibited in residential zones in existing district plans. In some district plans, strip clubs are a discretionary activity if they are locate within 30m of any residential zone and they will need to apply for a resource consent.

Strip clubs are permitted in some business zones in district plan rules. The location rules for entertainment facilities vary between district plans, please refer to the relevant district plan rules.

Rodney District Council General Bylaw (Chapter 14)

The former Rodney District Council's Brothel and Commercial Sex Premises Bylaw have rules relating to the location of strip clubs relative to a particular zone and other commercial sex premises. This bylaw will lapse on 31 October 2015.

Health and hygiene rules

As a place of employment, 'strip clubs' must comply with general rules for health and safety in employment rules, in Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992.

There are general occupational health and safety guidelines for the commercial sex industry. Refer to Occupational Health and Safety Service) Guidelines on 'Health and Safety in the New Zealand Sex Industry’' (Work Safe New Zealand).

Public nuisance rules

Public nuisance refers to offensive or harmful behaviour of people, which can cause an inconvenience or annoyance to others.

To minimise nuisance to others, strip clubs must comply with general noise rules in the relevant district plans.

When in the public domain, the public must comply with Public Safety and Nuisance Bylaw 2013.

Strip clubs could become a target of criticism if sex workers, clients and patrons cause a nuisance in public places.

If a strip club sells alcohol, it must comply with all alcohol and licensing requirements website.

Parking and traffic rules

Parking and traffic rules ensure that the entertainment facility provides enough parking spaces and excessive amounts of traffic are appropriately managed.

Strip clubs are subject to the same parking and traffic rules as 'entertainment facilities' in existing district plans.

Visibility and signage rules

Signs

For publically visible signage (e.g. signs on buildings, sandwich boards), the Signage Bylaw 2015 applies.

The Signage Bylaw 2015 has general rules relating to types of signs, location and size of signs allowed.

Generally, signage for strip clubs cannot be objectionable in keeping with the Films, Videos, and Publications Classification Act 1993.

Visibility

Existing district plans have urban design rules relating to the external appearance of premises, when located at street level in certain areas. These rules control how visible the interior of premises is (e.g. level of window opacity, screening doors). These rules also control the architectural character of premises so it is compatible with its surrounds.

Some of these urban design rules are incompatible with the business of strip clubs. In these cases, strip clubs will need to apply for resource consent to locate at street level in these areas. Urban design rules differ between former councils, refer to relevant district plans for these rules.


Street based sex work in the Auckland region

Street based sex work has been decriminalised under the Prostitution Reform Act 2003. At present, there are no specific regulations that apply to street based sex work. Instead it is regulated by various rules that regulate prostitution and general activity in public places.

The Manukau City Council - Regulation of Street Prostitution in Specified Places Bill ('the Bill'), would have enabled Auckland Council to set areas where street based sex work cannot occur. However, this Bill is no longer progressing.

At present, the regulatory tools relevant to street based sex work include:

  • the Prostitution Reform Act 2003
  • Public Safety and Nuisance Bylaw 2013
  • Summary Offences Act 1981.

Health and hygiene rules

Sex workers and clients must comply with Section 9 of the Prostitution Reform Act 2003, which requires sex workers and clients to adopt safer sex practices.

Public nuisance rules

As a business that operates in the public domain, the Public Safety and Nuisance Bylaw 2013 and the Summary Offences Act 1981 are relevant to street based sex work.

Solid Waste Bylaw 2012 pertains to littering in public places.

The Public Safety and Nuisance Bylaw 2013 seeks to minimise offensive behaviour in public places as well as protect public land, structures, property and assets from damage and misuse.

The Summary Offences Act 1981 pertains to disorderly behaviour and assault on persons and/or property. This is relevant to behaviour of street based sex workers, as it is illegal to publically expose oneself or engage in sex in a public place.


Agencies responsible for compliance and enforcement

The commercial sex industry is managed by a collection of local and central government statues, legislative instruments, plans and bylaws. There are various agencies responsible for its compliance and enforcement.

The following outlines the main agencies to contact for more information as they relate to different parts of local and central government regulation.

Location rules

Auckland Council is responsible for compliance and enforcement of district plan rules.

Applicable licences

Contact Ministry of Justice to apply for a brothel operator certificate (for brothels only) and get the relevant forms and information.

Applications for a brothel operator certificate can be made at the Auckland District Court.

To apply for an alcohol licence see Apply for or renew an alcohol licence.

Contact us to report a breach of alcohol licence conditions.

Health and hygiene rules

There are different agencies responsible health, hygiene and safety rules.

Medical Officers of Health are responsible for determining compliance with the health requirements of the Prostitution Reform Act 2003. They may enter and inspect brothels for the purposes of determining compliance with requirements for sex workers and brothel operators to adopt and promote safer sex practices, under the Prostitution Reform Act 2003.

The Auckland Council Health and Hygiene Bylaw 2014 contains a code of practice for commercial sexual services and massage. These are guideline documents only.

For general workplace health and safety concerns or concerns with labour terms and conditions contact:

Public nuisance rules

Contact us for concerns and enquiries relating to the Public Safety and Nuisance Bylaw 2013.

Contact the Police for concerns relating to the Summary Offences Act 1981, such as disorderly or violent behaviour.

Parking and traffic rules

Contact us for breach of parking rules in the district plan, i.e. if there are too many parked cars at a home business.

Contact Auckland Transport for general parking and traffic issues.

Visibility and signage rules

Contact us about concerns around the nature, type, location and size of signs in public places.

Contact the Department of Internal Affairs (Censorship Compliance Unit) for concerns around offensive content on signs.

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