Organisers of Saturday’s inaugural Nude Olympics at Byron’s Belongil Beach say they are already planning for next year’s event.
But those plans may have to be put on hold if a motion before Byron Shire Council to ban nude bathing at the beach is successful.
Cr Paul Spooner says in the comments attached to his notice of motion for the October 26 meeting, ‘While I am not against clothes optional bathing on our beaches it seems blatantly clear to me that the isolated location at [Belongil and] Tyagarah has unfortunately encouraged negative social behaviour and has made the location undesirable for many people to now use as a public beach.’
But local naturist Wayne Pendobny, who runs the Save Kings Beach and Belongil/Tyagarah Nature Reserve Facebook page, told Echonetdaily, that ‘banning a perfectly natural pastime is not the Byron way’
When there were a series of serious alcohol-related assaults in Byron Bay, we didn’t close the pubs. We looked at ways to minimise the dangerous behaviours while allowing people to continue to enjoy a couple of quiet drinks,’ he said.
‘To put this in perspective, this is the only legally declared nude beach for 3,000 kilometres from Coffs Harbour to Cape York,’ he added.
Blowing the whistle
Mr Pendobny used Saturday’s gathering to launch a petition to keep the beach open, and a ‘blow the whistle on sexual assault’ campaign to empower beach users to counter unwanted sexual advances.
‘When this issue last came up in 2013, councillors, including Cr Spooner, resolved to investigate alternative locations for a clothing optional beach closer to town, consult with nude bathers and obtain an options report from staff.
‘Needless to say, none of that ever happened – and now Cr Spooner wants to remove the beach declaration with practically no notice.
‘The fact is, council has broken faith with nude bathers and, if Cr Spooner’s plan is followed, will abrogate its responsibility towards women who have been on the receiving end of very predatory sexual behavior by simply handing the whole matter over to the police.
‘I believe the community can act to protect women without succumbing to the easy option of making all naturist beach users law-breakers and the subject of police attention.’
He said the whistle idea came from 1990s Sydney, ‘when gay men were being routinely assaulted on the streets. Simply by the wearing of whistles, and using them when they were being harassed, we were able to dramatically reduce the number and severity of assaults, even without police intervention.’
‘We know, of course, that there are developers keen to pounce on Grays Lane to turn it into yet another Byron suburb,’ Mr Pendobny added.
‘Developers such as this one would love nothing more than to see the clothing optional status of that beach revoked.’