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Operators of prostitution businesses

Applying for an operators' certificate under the Prostitution Reform Act 2003. May 2012.

What is the Prostitution Reform Act 2003?

The Prostitution Reform Act 2003 was passed by Parliament in June 2003. Among other things, this Act decriminalised prostitution in New Zealand, and introduced provisions to protect the health and safety of sex workers and their clients. The Act prohibits anyone under 18 years old working as a prostitute.

Under the Prostitution Reform Act every operator of a prostitution business must hold a certificate.

The Act also removed the requirement for massage parlour operators to be licensed. Certificates are issued by the Registrar of the Auckland District Court.

Who is an ‘operator’?

You are an operator if you have any sort of management responsibility for a business that provides commercial sexual services.

If you are a sex worker in a small owner-operated brothel that has four or fewer sex workers who each control what they earn, you are not classified as an operator.

If more than one of us has management responsibility, do we all need to get an operator’s certificate?

Yes. Certificates are held by operators and not by businesses. Everyone who falls into the category of an operator requires a certificate and this is regardless of how many others in the business may also have a certificate.

Can anyone apply for a certificate?

No. You have to be 18 years old or over, and not have been convicted of some specific offences such as a number of violence offences, offences under the Arms Act 1983, and offences under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975.

You must also be a citizen of New Zealand or Australia, or otherwise have a permanent residency permit for either of these countries.

How do I apply for a certificate?

Applications must be made to the Registrar of the Auckland District Court.

Find application information here.

Application information is available from the Auckland District Court +64 9 916 9027 or on the Ministry of Justice website

Applicants need to complete the application form and submit a recent passport photo and some form of photo-identification (for example, a copy of your passport or current New Zealand driver’s licence). A fee must be included with the application.

Where should I send my application?

Post your application to:

The Registrar (Prostitution Reform Act) Auckland District Court | Private Bag 92191 | Auckland

What happens if I lose or destroy my certificate?

You should apply for a replacement certificate. The Registrar must be satisfied that your current certificate has been lost or destroyed. This can be done by making a statutory declaration. There is a fee for a replacement certificate.

How long is the certificate valid for?

Your certificate will be valid for one year from its date of issue. About two months before it expires you will be sent a reminder. If your postal address changes, please advise the Registrar of the Auckland District Court by mail.

If I have a conviction that disqualifies me from holding an operator’s certificate, can I still get one?

Possibly. Anyone who has been refused a certificate because of a conviction that disqualifies them can apply to the Registrar of the Auckland District Court to have the disqualification waived. A District Court Judge will consider your application and needs to be satisfied that the offending happened so long ago, or was of such a nature that it should not be a barrier to you getting an operator’s certificate. The judge also needs to be satisfied you haven’t been associating with people who might themselves be disqualified and will ask the Police to provide a report.


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