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The Bay of Islands and in particular the town of Kororareka was notorious for this and brothels proliferated. In some cases, the sex may have been part of a wider partnership between a tribe and a ship's crew, akin to a temporary marriage alliance. The amount of choice women had about their participation seems to have varied. Throughout this period there was a severe gender imbalance in the settler population and women were in short supply.
New Zealand was also amongst those dependencies that British authorities pressured into passing Contagious Diseases Acts ; New Zealand's was in force from The gendered rationale and practice of venereal disease policy formed a focus for early feminist activism.
Section 26 of the Summary Offences Act prohibited soliciting, S of the Crimes Act prohibited brothel-keeping, and S living on the earnings of prostitution, and S procuring. In , the Crimes Act was amended to criminalise both clients and operators where workers were aged under 18 the age of consent for sexual activity is Young people under 18 were still classed as offenders after this came into force, until the passage of the Prostitution Reform Act The Massage Parlours Act effectively allowed indoor commercial sex under a facade.
Prostitutes advertised their services as "escorts", and brothels advertised themselves as "massage parlours". Workers in "massage parlours" were required to be registered with the police from the time the Massage Parlours Act came into force. In the mids, the police extended this registration ex-officio to other indoor workers in some areas of the country.
The police had approached media outlets letting them know that they may be "aiding and abetting" sex workers commit crimes such as brothel keeping, etc. Labour returned to power — , and Tim Barnett Labour Christchurch Central — assumed responsibility for introducing it as a Private Member's Bill to decriminalise prostitution.