The first time I visited Springfield, New Zealand, the Simpson's movie donut wasn't there. In March 2009, it was back! I was so happy! (yes that's me waving from behind the giant foam/plastic pastry).
There's a bit of a row going on right now about prostitutes walking the streets in south Auckland. From the New Zealand Herald April 19, 2009:
Community group squares off with street prostitutes
A Papatoetoe community group is fighting to get prostitutes off the area's streets. While Manukau City Council has another crack at making street prostitution illegal, a community group is confronting street walkers and their kerb-crawling customers in a notorious red light area of south Auckland.
The Papatoetoe Community Patrol is trying to scare off prostitutes' customers at Hunter's Corner by breaking up their negotiations and warning them of health dangers.
"These people are unregulated. Some of them carry diseases, so there's a risk not only to the client but also the client's partner," patrol member Stephen Grey told Sunday News.
In just over a year, three members of the 15-strong patrol group have been assaulted and they've had to change their patrol car three times because prostitutes have lashed out with weapons, the newspaper reported.
"The cars we use get considerable damage on them," Mr Grey said.
"They take to them with rocks, take to them with shopping trolleys, take to them with crow bars, kick them, kick the tail lights in."
The group is also sending the prostitutes' clients letters, tracking them down through their car registration plates.
Prostitutes Collective national co-ordinator Catherine Healy said she found the group's actions "astounding".
"We're really upset this is happening," she said. "It's harassment. The men aren't law breakers, assuming they are seeking someone over the age of 16."
There had been similar action taken around the country, Ms Healy said, but this was the first time a "formal, organised group" had targeted street prostitutes.
Last week Manukau City Council's policy and activities committee decided to recommend the council seek amendments to the Prostitution Reform Act 2003 to make street prostitution illegal.
In 2006 a bill, sponsored by Manurewa MP George Hawkins, that would have given the council the same powers was defeated in Parliament.
A 2005 report by the Prostitution Law Review Committee estimated there were 423 sex workers in Manukau, of whom 150 were on the street. The report also found that street prostitution was the most likely entry point for underage people to the sex industry.
I knew prostitution is legal in New Zealand, but had no idea prositutes were legally allowed to solicit on the streets, nor that there was a "red light" district in Auckland. I don't think I would want it in MY neighborhood. I feel a bit sorry for the residents, who are complaining about offensive trash, noise, and violence. None of the articles elaborate on what violence is happening(or if it is real), but the trash is said to be needles and used condoms (Herald article Apr 22). This blog post gives an interesting perspective with regard to migration. Having recently read the book A Crime So Monstrous, about slavery and to a large degree sex trafficking, I have expanded my thinking on the subject of prostitution. There are a lot of unanswered questions. I would probably feel more comfortable with it if I knew someone who did it, and was happy and well balanced. I can't help but think that prostitution seems like a pretty crappy job, and why would you do it unless you had to make cash fast. For the most part, the business is done very discreetly, and personally, I prefer it that way. At the same time, the secrecy and and independence of prostitution makes regulation more difficult.
Still, the model seems to be working. I suspect the "news" paper is covering the story of the annoyed neighbors because of the backlash against the old "liberal" Labor gov't (National is currently in power and more "conservative"). BBC news did a good article in March about the legal prostitution here, and puts it into perspective of some other countries.
On a more positive note, I'm dreaming of a trip to the South Pacific Island of Niue- a raised coral atoll with super clear, warm water and limestone caves. Plus, they use NZ money and speak english. It's tiny, only 1600 people live there, and few accomodations so it's never crowded. Darin and I attended an Australia travel expo last weekend, and we decided we want to go somewhere WARM in August (winter here) for our wedding anniversary. Cairns went onto the list, but the flight is expensive and about 8.5 hours! We could get cheap-ish flights to the east coast of Australia (Brisbane, Adelaide, "Goldcoast" and the like), but they are heavily promoted as tourist destinations. We're more interested in the independent adventure with a comfy bed.