Protect it or lose it!
Being clothes-free (naked) at a beach or river is neither unusual nor illegal.
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).
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.
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".
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.
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
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: http://www.freebeaches.org.nz
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