Protect it or lose it!

Being clothes-free (naked) at a beach or river is neither unusual nor illegal. 

In the Auckland High Court, 1991, Tomkins J. agreed with the District Court Judge that a charge of Indecent Exposure (Section 27 of the Summary Offences Act) was inappropriate for people of naturist beliefs who were naked in a public place (referring to beaches).  

Section 27 of the Summary Offences Act 1981 makes it an offence to "intentionally and obscenely exposes any part of his or her genitals" in a public place.  The key to this section lies in the conjunction in the phrase: "intentionally and obscenely".  In a fair reading of Section 27, nakedness in a public place is only an offence if accompanied by an obscene gesture or expression.  In order for a prosecution to be successful, Police would need to prove that a person's exposure was not only intentional but also obscene.  Legally, it is important to note that to be offensive requires intent to offend.

Patrick Milligan, (litigation lawyer specialising in local body law) when interviewed on TV3 Target program, Sunday 4 February 2001 stated "Nakedness per se does not create an offence - it relates back to the wording of the Section" (27).  He cast doubt on whether a bylaw forbidding nudity would stand up in courts.
Barry Wilson, in a legal opinion on the North Shore Bylaw prepared for the Free Beach Group Inc, stated that the effect of the High Court ruling is that nakedness itself is not illegal - thus if someone is naked and is, for instance, sunbathing, swimming, or digging the garden, then the law has not been broken.
Generally, the police are not concerned about genuine nudists on beaches; they act on complaints of offensive behaviour, and naturists commend the police on apprehending any person behaving in an inappropriate manner (clothed or unclothed). 

The future of St Leonards beach as a nudist beach is in the hands of the nudists.
The police have had many complaints of disorderly and offensive behaviour at St Leonards, and are determined to stamp it out.  Senior Sargent Bruce Wood, Takapuna Police, says that the police have photos of sexual activities in the middle of the beach.  He asks why the genuine nudist present on the beach tolerated these exhibitions and do nothing to stop them.
When called to the beach, the police will be very intolerant of anything that could be considered to be offensive.  For example, if a male decided to walk into the sea for a swim at the same time as two ladies walked past, he would be questioned for his reason to take his walk at that particular moment.  "If we get complaints, we will go down and take action".

The Free Beach Group has a Code of Conduct which requires members to be courteous and considerate, and to take care to avoid any action that could be considered offensive, and to respect the personal space of others and the privacy of those who wish to be alone.

The police would prefer to not be on the beach, and Senior Sargent Bruce Wood said " If you can do the job yourself, there will be no need for us to go down to the beach" and "We are with you, so long as you look after it!".

The message is very clear, nudists must take the initiative.  Join Free Beach NZ Inc and form an Action Group to protect your right to enjoy clothes-free swimming and sun bathing.

Free Beach NZ Inc web site:

Return to beginning of Legal Notes
Legal Opinion on the North Shore City Council Bylaw
Law Notes extract from police magazine Ten-one

Submission to Kapiti Coast District Council