An ordinance to enforce homophobia-free zones throughout a gay neighbourhood in Sydney has drawn criticism from locals.

They say the crackdown on hate crimes is little more than a publicity stunt.

The new law comes in response to complaints from gays who say they are sick of being the targets of homophobic slurs outside nightclubs.

The move will focus on the city’s main gay precinct Oxford Street, the site of the world’s biggest gay and lesbian Mardi Gras.

Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore said the move recognised the “essential gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender character of Oxford St” and was a response to many complaints about homophobia.

The Australian newspaper called the ordinance “a cheap public-relations stunt that may lead to more attacks on gays and lesbians.”

Openly gay city council member Shayne Mallard opposed the scheme, which passed by a 4–3 vote, saying that without increased police and security support, the “homophobia-free zones” will offer the LGBT community little protection and might even provoke increased violence.

“The young men who come in from outer suburbs to drink alcohol and assault gay people are not going to be deterred by a sticker in a window,” Mallard told The Australian.

“Because they already have homophobic and violent tendencies, it’s more likely to be a provocation.

“Lots of people in the gay and lesbian community fear it will provoke more violence … we’ve had enough of these PR stunts,” he added.

Sydney city councillor Phillip Black, who proposed the plan, said the idea was similar to alcohol-free or nuclear-free zones that already exist in the city.

“At this point, the ball is with council staff to develop a proposal that will come back to council over the next few months, but it could involve stickers, badges, posters and T-shirts similar to the Safe Place pink triangle campaign,” Black said.

“We have to create awareness that homophobia is not acceptable.”