In-person submission to Queenstown Lakes District Council on Opposition to Queenstown’s Massive Brothel Expansion



Ladies and gentlemen,

My name is Ally-Marie Diamond, representing Wahine Toa Rising, a New Zealand Registered Charitable Trust committed to upholding the dual heritage of Te Tiriti o Waitangi and supporting wāhine and tamariki affected by trauma, violence, and exploitation in the sex trade. We advocate for legal and policy changes to protect those at risk of exploitation.

Today, I speak to oppose any changes to the current Brothel Control Bylaw that would allow the expansion of sex trade operations in Queenstown and Wānaka.

But before I do, I would like to draw your attention to the report of Reem Alsalem, UN Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women and Girls, presented last week to the UN Human Rights Council. Ms Alsalem makes clear what Wahine Toa Rising has been saying for the past 5 years, that prostitution is a system of exploitation and violence, and she makes particular mention of the ways that the New Zealand decriminalised system has led to more exploitation and violence towards prostituted women and less accountability for those responsible for it. I urge you to take the time to read this report, especially the recommendations she makes on pages 17 to 19.

I also want to acknowledge that I am not local to Queenstown or Wanaka. My experience is that wherever the sex trade operates, the harms to the women and young people exploited by it are the same, and the same vulnerable groups are its target: poor, marginalised women and young people, often from ethnic minorities. As Ms Alsalem says, the prostitution system sexualises and racialises poverty.

So, with regard to the proposed brothel bylaw:

Regardless of how many brothels are operating in your district currently, expanding areas where brothels can operate, and permitting them to be located at or below ground level, will only increase opportunities for trafficking and exploitation, harming individuals and the community—a harm that the QLDC itself acknowledges but does nothing to prevent or alleviate.

The Prostitution Reform Act 2003 is outdated and urgently needs review. As mentioned, the recent report by the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women and Girls criticises New Zealand’s decriminalisation approach for aiding traffickers, boosting sex tourism, and expanding the prostitution market. This approach has not reduced unsafe sexual practices and has increased violence against women and girls.

Your own Councillor, Lisa Guy has expressed concerns about the coercion of young people into sex work, noting the targeting of rangatahi with promises of easy money. There is little faith that all SOOBs (Small Owner-Operated Brothels) are genuinely owner-operated, with anecdotal evidence suggesting otherwise.

The proposed bylaw changes will only exacerbate the inherent harms of the sex trade. Therefore, we support retaining the current bylaw, flawed as it is, to prevent further harm. Specifically, we support:

– Keeping brothels at least 100 meters apart

– No changes to signage regulations

– Retaining the prohibition on brothels located at or below ground level

Regarding the size of permitted activity areas, we support Option 3, which keeps the areas the same as the current bylaw in both Wānaka and Queenstown. Expanding these areas by 400-500% would only facilitate sex trafficking and sex tourism.

The QLDC must refuse to enable the expansion of sex trafficking and take its harm prevention responsibility seriously. Instead of pandering to sex trade lobbyists, QLDC should fund and promote support services for those harmed in the sex trade, such as trauma-informed services, exit services, education, and prevention resources.

I urge the Council to listen to these concerns and act to protect vulnerable women and young people, especially those from indigenous and minoritized ethnicities, who are disproportionately affected by the sex trade.

Thank you for your attention, and for the opportunity to speak at this hearing. Wahine Toa Rising is ready to consult with you further if needed.