Sex workers are allegedly operating from a brothel just 200 metres away from a Catholic church and primary school - flouting local laws.
Three Asian prostitutes, all female, are understood to be servicing clients in a unit on Melbourne Street, near St Joseph’s Catholic Church and school.
Queenstown has strict rules covering the sex trade, with a bylaw restricting brothel operations to a small area of the CBD that doesn’t include Melbourne St.
Queenstown’s council has launched an investigation after a complaint from a member of the public.
A member of the public, who does not want to be named, says: “Neighbours are sick of it – there’s people in and out the door all night, 3am, 4am.
“The council closed it down about six months ago but they just stopped for a month then came back.
“It’s the same girls coming and going.”
The three women, all in their 20s, advertise their services on a national website - with graphic details of what’s on offer.
The ad says they are available both day and night at a Queenstown “private CBD address with parking for your convenience”.
St Joseph’s principal Trisch Inder says: “I wasn’t aware of this.
“I never respond to rumours but it’s something I’d raise with the board.”
“Kids’ safety is paramount at the end of the day and if it was jeopardised in any way the board would act.
“It hasn’t impacted on us but we like that the council is working on it.”
Property records show the unit that is the subject of the complaint is owned by Kusol Investments Ltd, which purchased it in 2008 for $270,000.
The firm’s sole director is convicted Dunedin drug dealer Bernard James Paul Kearney, 51.
Truck driver Kearney was sentenced to two years and two months in prison back in 2009 after converting his Dunedin house into a cannabis farm.
Police found 42 plants, with a potential yield of $200,000 a year, in a redesigned basement. One detective
says it was the “most sophisticated operation I’ve seen in my 10 years as a police officer”.
Mountain Scene could not contact Kearney and there’s no suggestion he knows what is allegedly happening at the property. All three women declined to comment.
Council regulatory boss Lee Webster says: “If we substantiate the complaint, we will be issuing a warning that the activity must cease immediately or the property owner will be prosecuted.”
If a conviction follows, the owner could be fined up to $20,000.
Prostitution and brothel keeping is legal in New Zealand but Queenstown bylaws limit the activity to a CBD area that does not include Melbourne St.
The aim is to ensure brothels do not open in residential areas or near schools. Melbourne St is a combination of commercial and residential.
The permitted zone is a large rectangle covering the heart of downtown, bordered by Camp St, Shotover St, Rees St and Earl St.
It was created in 2011 after council, facing legal challenges, re-worked its previous stance which blocked brothels within 100 metres of homes, schools, pre-schools, churches, community facilities and reserves.
New Zealand Prostitutes’ Collective national coordinator Catherine Healy says Queenstown’s strict bylaw makes it “almost impossible” for sex workers.
“Most bylaws permit home-based operations for three to four sex workers but there’s no option for that in
Queenstown,” she says.
“We like to see workers buddy-up because it keeps them safe. I wish them luck and hope they find somewhere.”
Healy says bylaws don’t typically include distances from schools.
“No, that makes no sense. We’re not talking about paedophiles.”
The bylaw defines a ‘brothel’ as any premises kept or habitually used for the purpose of prostitution.
Prostitution is allowed in commercial properties such as motels, as long as it has been arranged elsewhere.
Queenstown’s last brothel, Candy’s, closed in 2008 but the unnamed member of the public says the Melbourne St unit has been used for prostitution for up to three years.