Bonn gives new meaning to “meter maids” with a simple system for taxing its strumpets

Manurewa MP George Hawkins – a bit of an old fusspot who won’t be missed by Alf after the election – put a parliamentary question to the chairperson of the Local Government and Environment Committee a few weeks ago about the Manukau City Council (Regulation of Prostitution in Specified Places) Bill.

This silly piece of legislation initially was aimed at ridding the streets of Manukau of harlots by banning prostitutes from some areas of south Auckland.

It was promoted by the former Manukau council to deal with problems with street workers, particularly in Papatoetoe.

If passed it would result in prostitutes being fined up to $2000 if they are caught soliciting in banned areas.

But the legislative process has been slowed by the creation of the super city of Auckland and Manukau’s absorption within it.

And now – the way Alf recalls things – it will give the Auckland Council the power to make similar by-laws throughout Auckland.

Anyway, George wanted to know when the bill will be reported back to the House, and Chris Auchinvole said it has a reporting back date of 8 September.

But before things are signed and sealed in this bill for controlling street-walkers, we should consider the merits of an idea being implemented in Bonn.

The city of Bonn has begun collecting taxes from prostitutes with an automated pay station similar to a parking meter, proving again that German efficiency knows few if any bounds.

A ticket machine prints receipts for those who work the streets.

Bonn is not the only city in Germany to charge such a tax, but it is the first to hit upon the idea of a ticket machine that prints out receipts for the nightly flat fee of 6 euros (currently about $8.65) for the privilege of streetwalking. The meter went into service over the weekend, and by Monday morning had collected $382 for the city’s coffers.

The New York Times article which drew Alf’s attention to this matter says prostitution is legal in Germany; the Reeperbahn in Hamburg is one of the largest red-light districts in Europe.

Attempts to regulate the industry, unionize the workers and tax the proceeds have not always been effective, given both the discretion and the unpredictability that are inherent in the business.

Under the new scheme in Bonn –

The women wait for customers on a stretch of the Immenburgstrasse in a largely industrial part of the city. In addition to the Siemens-built meter machine, which cost $11,575 including installation, the city has built special wooden garages nearby where customers can park their cars and have sex.

“They are called, in fairest and finest administrative High German, ‘performance areas,’ but I believe the Italian prime minister would say ‘bunga bunga,’ ” said Monika Frömbgen, a spokeswoman for the city.

Still, she said, the serious issue that the meter was intended to address boils down to tax fairness.

“The women in the bordellos and the sauna clubs also pay the tax, and so should those working on the streets,” Ms. Frömbgen said.

The city estimates it has 200 sex workers, of whom about 20 ply their trade on the street.

The Bonn government spends $116,000 a year for a private security company to guard the area and to provide security for the sex workers.

Under the new meter system, street prostitutes must purchase the tickets to work between the hours of 8:15 pm and 6 am.

After one warning, a sex worker caught working without a ticket would be fined up to $145.

Franz-Reinhard Habbel, a spokesman for the German Association of Cities and Municipalities, reckons other cities will follow Bonn’s example.

The country’s 11,000 municipalities are struggling under a combined US$11 billion in debt and are searching for new, “relatively simple” sources of income, he said.

So there we have it.

A damned good idea for Auckland and other cities.

Alf has not kept close tabs on the Auckland Council’s antics on this issue.

But he knows that a few months ago it voted 11-7 in support of the bill.

Councillors who voted against the bill said it would victimise prostitutes and go against the Prostitution Reform Act 2003, which aimed to make prostitution safer.

Albert-Eden-Roskill councillor Cathy Casey spoke out angrily against the proposal.

She said the now defunct Manukau City Council had created a problem by not allowing owner-operated small brothels in its area – a departure from the 2003 act – which forced prostitutes on to the street.

“If we agree to this it is like saying that we would like to supersede the laws of the land.”

She said the legislation would only create more problems and would create a geographic area where the law was different to the rest of the country.

The mealy-mouthed Mayor, Len Brown, said it was

… a “sad issue” but he wanted to deliver an important message that he would support the “hard old” communities of south Auckland.

Alf urges him to review his position and see the merits of metering a business that will never be snuffed, no matter how hard the authorities try to clean up their cities.

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