Warning for nude beachgoers

'HARMLESS': Ladies Bay is a hotspot for nude sunbathers in Auckland.
'HARMLESS': Ladies Bay is a hotspot for nude sunbathers in Auckland.

Aucklanders keen to sunbathe in the buff this summer will have to do so in private if they don't want to break the law.

Controversy has erupted over nude beachgoers at St Heliers' Ladies Bay, prompting complaints from visitors who want Auckland Council to put up warning signs.

But the council says no beaches in Auckland are clothing optional including Ladies Bay. However, it is considering erecting signs after discussions with police.

Council and police patrol the area to deter nudity which is an offence under the Summary Offences Act.

Under the act anyone "deliberately and obscenely" exposing themselves in a public place can be fined up to $2000 or up to three months imprisonment for indecent exposure.

Glen Innes Acting Senior Sergeant Beth Houliston says no arrests have ever been made for nudity at Ladies Bay and most offenders get away with a warning.

"Generally it's just speaking to the people and pointing out the fact they can't be down there without their clothes, that it is indecent, and asking them to put their clothes back on."

She says police do not receive many complaints about nudity at the beach but any received are followed up.

According to the website of nudist organisation Free Beaches, Ladies Bay used to be the most popular urban spot for nude sunbathers.

But the website no longer recommends the beach to members saying it has attracted unsavoury behaviour in recent years.

In 2008 residents of Cliff Rd, which overlooks the beach, complained of men committing indecent acts near young children, couples copulating while men watched on, and one man flashing his genitals to a young boy having a swim.

According to Orakei Local Board member Colin Davis, police stepped up patrols in the area several years ago in response to a antisocial behaviours, not just limited to nudity, but also including drinking and boy racers.

He says he has not received many complaints about nudity at the beach in recent years.

According to Davis, the former Auckland City Council rejected past requests to put up signs telling people to keep their clothes on at the bay as it did not fall under any council bylaws.

Last week a naked sunbather at Ladies Bay said it had been known as a nude beach since the 1920s and said the practice was "harmless".

Ladies Bay is one of several beaches around Auckland frequented by nudists. Free Beaches lists Pohutukawa Bay on the North Shore, Mellons Bay in Howick and Herne Bay among other nudist-friendly spots.

Auckland Now