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Inside Tauranga's sex industry, New Zealand


“The word illegal and legal makes a big difference.”

This article describes conditions under ‘decriminalised’ sex work in New Zealand. It illustrates that there are still many constraints on sex workers and that not all sex work is legal.

In Tauranga you are allowed to offer commercial sex services from your house, provided you are the only person operating there.There are five registered brothels, compared with four in 2003. It is illegal to solicit sex on the street. Brothels must only open in areas permitted under council by law and a certificate of compliance and an operator certificate, is needed. You have to be 18 to be a sex worker or use their services. Condoms are a requirement and sex workers are advised to take other precautions; when necessary. Sexual health check-ups are recommended for prostitutes every three months.

“In a recent poll, two-thirds of Kiwis said prostitution laws should be amended to keep brothels out of residential areas. The poll and its results angered the National Prostitutes Collective, which says recriminalising the profession would be unrealistic and unsafe. Immigration New Zealand is monitoring brothels and says it will charge them with “aiding and abetting” illegal prostitutes to remain in the country if they rent out beds to them. The agency is anticipating a surge in foreign sex workers entering the country to meet an expected increase in demand during the Rugby World Cup.   Tauranga’s Larry Baldock, leader of the Kiwi Party and city councillor, believes brothel keeping, pimping and street soliciting should never have been decriminalised. He says Prime Minister John Key voted against it, and Baldock agrees. “Is this the message we want to be sending to society?” he says. Baldock says if the profession wasn’t so highly paid, fewer women would probably do it.

“Prostitution is at the expense of Kiwi families. If you ask prostitutes, a lot of their clients are married, and a lot of their money is coming from the family purse. If they were doing it for $15 an hour it would be a different story.”


Human Rights and Law