Brothels Bylaw Review

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Background to the Review

Council began a review of it's Brothels Bylaw in 2019. 

After speaking with a range of stakeholders and looking at the current issues, in November 2020, Council agreed to consult with the public, to get peoples opinions on a proposed way forward.

The Statement of proposal(PDF, 14MB) explains the background and issues identified, along with possible approaches to address this. To support this, there was also a Factsheet(PDF, 6MB) which gives a brief background to the bylaw, overview of the legal requirements, and some of the key issues identified.

All documents were available online, plus printed copies of these documents were made available at the Council reception, Upper Hutt Libraries, H₂O Xtream Aquatic Centre and Expressions Arts Centre.

The Proposal stated that Council’s overall goal is to:

  • Regulate the establishment and operation of brothels and their associated signage, in order to minimise community harm or offence, while not endorsing or morally sanctioning prostitution or its use; and
  • Allow the operation of responsible and legitimate brothels which support the key purpose of the Prostitution Reform Act 2003 (PRA), which is to promote the rights, safety and well-being of sex workers and their clients. 

Public consultation was open from 11 November 2020 until 11 January 2021, and we received 44 submissions either online, or via email, or mail.  Four of these people spoke to Councillors in-person about their submission. Around 50 people also expressed their views on the proposal via Facebook.


Outcome of the review

On 16 February 2021, Council met to complete the review of our Brothels Bylaw.

The review considered if there was a need to specifically control brothels in Upper Hutt, which have been permitted since the Prostitution Reform Act legalised sex work in 2003.

     Q1: Are there insufficient controls in the current District Plan for signs associated with or the business of brothels?

     Q2: Is there a need to control the specific location of brothels?

Council decided to revoke the bylaw, and instead will now rely on the requirements set-out in our District Plan to manage the establishment and operations of brothels.  This approach has also been taken by around 85% of councils across the country.  Any brothels, and any signs associated with them, will need to satisfy the same planning requirements as any other business activity in the intended zone or part of the city.

The District Plan is available to view and download on Council’s website and physical copies are also available for inspection at the Council reception and the Libraries. 


Responses to your Feedback

Throughout the consultation, we received a diverse range of feedback and suggestions, and Council would like to thank everyone who took the time to share their views with us, which were duly noted.

As a response to some of these comments, and to help answer some of the questions raised:

  • The Prostitution Reform Act 2003 does not permit a council to ban brothels outright in its district.
  • The Proposal presented was to use the District plan instead of the bylaw.  A potential option to amend the bylaw was considered by Council as part of this review process in September 2020.  This option was included in the ‘Statement of Proposal’ for reference purposes, and in the spirit of transparency and full disclosure.
  • The Proposal is to use the Council’s existing District Plan.  Any changes to modify our District Plan via the Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA) is both lengthy, and it is arguable that a rule controlling locations in relation to sensitive sites would be invalid under the RMA.
  • All legitimate businesses need to satisfy the same requirements for a given zone, as specified in the District Plan.  The plan does not set proximity requirements for the locations any business types.
  • Council staff in the Planning Team have been involved throughout this review.  They advise that the District Plan has sufficient controls in place for signs associated with brothels, and that any applications for brothels will be assessed using the same rigorous process as other businesses.
  • Council is not aware of any evidence that the community transmission of COVID-19 has or would increase due to the activities of sex workers and their clients, any more than people can spread the virus by using public transport, going to work or retail outlets, or engaging in everyday activities and social interactions.  

    All workplaces are legally required to provide a QR code for visitors to scan.  This information is held securely on the person’s mobile device, and may only be triggered if the person is suspected of being tested positive for the virus, or they have been in close proximity to a suspected carrier of the virus.

    Council strongly encourages everyone to scan using the Ministry of Health’s COVID-19 App at all times, and reminds anyone who may be feeling unwell to stay at home, get tested for the virus, and self-isolate if they suspect they might be infected.

  • Council prides itself on the safe-aspect and Family-friendly character of Upper Hutt. 

    This is a key part of our vision, that “We have an outstanding natural environment, leisure and recreational opportunities, and we are a great place for families to live, work, and play”.

  • Council must need to be consider all or our interventions in terms of the ‘Four community well-beings’ that form the pillars of the Local Government Act 2002 (LGA) - being social, economic, environmental and cultural well-beings

    This includes the economic ability for people to have a ‘right to work’, and choose how they are able to support themselves and their whānau through legitimate employment.

  • The comparison to other councils’ approaches to the management of brothels was included in the ‘Statement of Proposal’ as part of this fact-finding exercise, and was included for reference purposes.
  • Council neither aims nor expects to see a rise in the number of sex workers operating in the city if this proposal was passed.
  • Council aims to maintain all of its bylaws as being up-to-date, fit-for-purpose, and able to be enforced by Council officers (not the Police).  Council is of the view that the current brothels bylaw may not satisfy these goals.
  • Council officers advise that retaining the current bylaw is not a viable option, as it may be susceptible to legal challenge.
  • Any complaints to Council are investigated based on any breaches of the bylaw, not because of ‘personal objections’, since sex work was established as a legitimate occupation by nationwide law reforms in 2003.
  • Council does not believe that retirement villages and rest homes should be classed as sensitive sites, because this does not align with the original concerns raised when the bylaw was enacted, such that “brothels should not be located near the places that children are likely to frequent”.


Out of Scope

Some of the comments submitted may be considered as being ‘out of scope’ for the purposes of this consultation, as the bylaw relates only to the ‘permitted locations’ of brothels, and not:

  • Matters which the bylaw cannot regulate, according to the legislative requirements laid down by the LGA and PRA. The bylaw can only affect brothels, not sex work.
  • The existence of, or decriminalisation of, sex work which was established as a legitimate occupation by nationwide law reforms in 2003.
  • The morality of sex work, and/or its place in society.


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