In a move that has given hope to both Tyagarah residents and naturists, Byron Shire Council yesterday resolved to continue to allow nude bathing on a reduced stretch of Tyagarah Beach, starting 200 metres south of Grays Lane and ending well north of Elements Resort.
The amendment by Cr Basil Cameron, to Cr Paul Spooner’s original motion to close the beach to naturists completely, was carried with the support of Greeens councillors Michael Lyon, Jeanette Martin and Sarah Ndiyae, together with independent Cate Coorey.
The motion commits council, after four years of inaction, to erect signage on the beach within two weeks indicating exactly where the clothing optional section is, and also requires council to review the situation again in three months.
In the meantime, council will liaise with police, naturists and the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) in an attempt to establish whether there is a more suitable alternative for a less remote clothing optional beach in the shire.
Original motion withdrawn
At the outset of debate, which lasted more than an hour, Cr Spooner announced that he had withdrawn his original motion and posted a new motion that would have allowed nude bathing at an increased number of beaches in the shire (including the whole length of Tyagarah from the existing beach to just short of Brunswick Heads).
But it would have specifically excised popular, if unofficial, clothing optional beaches along Seven Mile Beach Road, including Kings, Brays and Whites.
In a somewhat remarkable turn of events, this move was supported by National Party aligned Cr Alan Hunter, who joked, ‘my family are going to think I’ve turned into a hippy.’
ALP aligned Cr Jan Hackett, who lives in Sunrise and says she has seen naked bathers straying that far south, also supported Cr Spooner’s motion.
The move follows reports of exhibitionism and sexual harassment of women at the beach, which appear to have increased following police crackdowns at the adjacent tea-tree lakes (which are not part of the declared nudist area).
But it also follows on the heels of the creation of a Safe Beaches liaison committee – comprising police, NPWS, Elements Resort and naturists – earlier this year.
As a result of that group’s formation, police have been given 4WD access onto the beach from Elements Resort and NPWS have erected new signage at the Tyagarah Beach car park and tea-tree lakes spelling out the penalties for offensive behaviour.
In explaining his move, Cr Spooner said he was a white ribbon ambassador and ‘it would be a contradiction if I didn’t speak out.’
He added, though, that he had ‘visited many nude beaches around the country and overseas.’
‘But I have concluded Tyagarah as a sole location is a mistake and don’t think signage alone will stop negative behaviour.
‘I’m of the opinion we shouldn’t ban [nude bathing] but let’s stop concentrating it on one isolated beach.
‘Nudity on Byron beaches does not offend contemporary standards of behaviour – so it should not be an offence to be naked on the beach or in the ocean,’ he said.
Mayor Richardson agreed the remoteness of Tyagarah was a problem.
‘It’s like putting a skate park in a quiet area and wondering why antisocial behaviour happens,’ he said.
Wreck to Belongil
Councillors Spooner, Hackett and Richardson all said they would like to see the area from the Wreck to Belongil declared clothing optional instead of Tyagarah, as it was closer to the main beaches and police and emergency services would have easier access.
But Cr Ndiyae said she thought that was not a good idea.
‘To have nudists trying to share the dog beach – I don’t know,’ she said.
In proposing his amendment, Cr Cameron said, ‘No matter what we do here today, tomorrow at Tyagarah beach there will be the same sorts of people doing the same sorts of things, behaving inappropriately and getting in the faces of our residents.
‘All efforts [to stop it] have been undermined by the fact that we [council] haven’t put up signs. If we put up signs, the authorities have an ability to enforce them – the police and others can take action.
‘In situations like this, the regulation will come from the community – beach users.
‘I’ve seen beach users really try hard by engaging with NPWS and others but we have to play our part,’ Cr Cameron said.
Despite Cr Spooner accusing Cr Cameron of ‘wimping out’ his amendment found support from Cr Coorey, who said, ‘I think we should be more like Europe than Queensland, where nudity is banned altogether.
‘I like what’s been put forward by Cr Spooner but we don’t have buy-in.
‘What we have is a group of users in Tyagarah that have started working very well. Police have said it would be good if we could define [the clothing optional zone].
‘I would like to see what Spooner’s putting forward be the case once we have seen this work.
She added that ‘conflating two different things, nudity and the behaviour on beach and tea-tree lakes’ was unhelpful.
‘We have to deal with that stuff – and nudity is a separate issue. I would like to see the whole of the shire nude.
‘Prohibition won’t stop the behaviour – it’s the police and the community that will control the behaviour,’ Cr Coorey said.