Nudity not necessarily an offence
People upset by a bit of beach nudity might just have to learn to lump it – nudists are apparently well within their rights to get their kit off for a dip.
Opunake Beach was all a flutter on Wednesday afternoon after a pair of elderly breasts were seen taking a swim and then sunbathing.
Police took two calls from the public concerning the exposure before visiting the beach and informing patrolling lifeguards a bare chest was not an offence.
And according to Taranaki Naturists Club spokesman Arthur Eagle, getting your bottoms off is not necessarily an offence either, if the majority of people aren't offended.
"In theory, if you wanted, you could walk down the coastal walkway in the nude if there was a group of you and that wouldn't be considered an offence," he said.
"Not that you would want to do that."
Mr Eagle said the club would soon be issuing a public invitation for a nude beach walk from Wills Rd near Bell Block to their club off Brown Rd at Taranaki Anniversary weekend. But not all nudists like the club environment, he admitted. "Some people don't bother with clubs. They go out to Back Beach or Tapuae or they will find their own spot. You will find them in all sorts of places."
New Plymouth police Sergeant Kayanna Holly said public nudity was not a big issue in Taranaki but time and place was key to getting away with getting it off.
"Generally it comes down to who is offended. If you are at a nudist beach, sweet. If you are the only one on the beach that is sweet too. But if there are people around who might get offended that's different," she said.
Section 27 of the Summary Offence Act 1981 classifies indecent exposure as occurring when a person who, in or within view of any public place, intentionally and obscenely exposes any part of his or her genitals.
Bare breasts are not indecent exposure.
However, that does not mean a topless sunbather will be safe, at least in the New Plymouth district.
A bylaw passed in 2008 prohibits any person to be or remain upon any part of a beach unless properly and sufficiently dressed.
Surf Life Saving New Zealand club development officer Andy Cronin said nudity on beaches was more of a civil issue than a safety one.
"There are probably more serious concerns at the beach than to worry about whether someone has their top off," he said.
Taranaki Daily News