No nudes is bad news for Byron

NICOLE HASHAM
Last updated 14:42 09/08/2013
Nude-landscape
Jeff Dawson

RUNNING FREE: Byron Bay resident Benjamin enjoys an uninhibited run.

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For years in Byron Bay it has been thus: crystals have special powers, happy pants will never die and swimming is best done wearing only a smile.

But the region's bohemians say their lifestyle is under threat after the council moved to end nude bathing at the town's only official ''clothes optional'' beach.

It has outraged nudists who say it is the latest effort to ''beige the rainbow region'' and satisfy a new wave of more conservative residents.

A report to Byron Shire Council recommended the clothes-optional status at part of Tyagarah Beach, just north of the town, be revoked.

It said the council acted beyond its powers in 1998 when it declared nudity was allowed at the beach, which is managed by three state government agencies.

The council has also been called upon to deal with anti-social behaviour on and around the beach, including the sexual harassment of women and illegal outdoor dance parties.

An indigenous woman complained the behaviour of some was desecrating a significant site.

The report said the government could later make nudity permissible.

The council voted to seek public feedback before making a decision, and will explore alternative locations for clothes optional beaches.

One beach user, who gave his name only as Mijimberi, said being naked was a ''fundamental human right''.

''I enjoy the freedom of the sun and the water on my skin, playing Frisbee, swimming ... why would you put clothes on to go into the water to swim?'' he said.

Beach user Wayne Penn said authorities wanted to ''beige the rainbow culture''.

''As the new and old guard collide there seems to be a push to sanitise Byron and make it more like the Gold Coast,'' he said.

Police have been known to occasionally shut down drumming circles in Byron Bay following noise complaints, and buskers must now get a permit before breaking out the bongo.

A government takeover of caravan parks, and moves to make them more upmarket, has triggered claims that nomads on a shoestring will be priced out.

Byron Bay Chamber of Commerce president Paul Waters conceded high house prices had pushed alternative types to towns such as Mullumbimby, but he insisted the culture had not been snuffed out.

''It's probably not the same as 30 years ago, you don't see the bare-footed Rastafarians en masse, but they're still here,'' he said.

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- Sydney Morning Herald

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