Byron Shire Councillors voted at last Thursday’s meeting to continue a trial of changed conditions at the shire’s only official nude beach at Tyagarah but emphasised there was no guarantee the beach would remain clothing optional in the longer term.
A spokesperson for the local naturist group told public access that the current trial, which was originally slated for three months but has continued for five, had been a success in clearing out seamy sex abusers whose presence on the beach had increasingly riled beachgoers and local residents.
She called for the beach’s clothing optional status to be confirmed, following the erection of signage, daily police patrols and a range of initiatives by her group.
But Councillors instead supported a motion from Greens Cr Sarah Ndiyae to continue the trial while council installed improved signage and daily police sweeps of the beach continued.
Byron Naturists’ representative Debra Conomy also argued the beach, which was shortened by about one third during the move to a trail period last October, should be extended as it was becoming crowded again on weekends and public holidays after being cleaned up.
‘On many occasions over the last few months, Byron Naturists have witnessed a huge difference in behavior,’ she said.
‘Over the Christmas-New Years break I personally spoke to many couples, families and singles who confirmed they now felt safe – including many who had no hesitation in bringing their children back to such an idyllic naturist beach location.’
But this plea was also rebuffed, with Cr Basil Cameron amending the motion to ensure that any further extension would have to be approved by the roundtable group Safe Beaches – which contains representatives from Tyagarah residents, Elements Resort and police – before council would consider it.
No sign at Bruns
The sole consolation to the shire’s naturists and skinny dippers contained in the resolution was not to continue with staff plans to erect an informational sign at the south end of Brunswick Heads beach, where a lot of long-time locals have chosen to take their daily nude swim rather than facing potential abuse at Tyagarah.
Perennial activist and self-described skinny dipper Dean Jefferys, told Echonetdaily that while ‘police fining naked people between Byron and Brunswick in the past few months and all the media that that has generated has had the desired positive effect of cleaning up some of the predatory sexual behaviour that has been occurring… unfortunately there has been some collateral damage and many innocent skinny dippers have been fined’.
‘Now the police challenge is to recognise the difference between predatory sexual behaviour and harmless skinny dipping on the shires beaches.
‘I am happy council voted to only erect signposts around Tyagarah and Elements resort instructing people where they can and can’t swim naked and left Brunswick un-posted.
‘This will have the effect that police will have to think twice before fining naked swimmers near Brunswick or on any other of the shires beaches.
‘Now police can’t fine skinny dippers for disobeying a directive on a sign so they would have to charge people with offensive behaviour that skinny dippers should be able to get thrown out of court.
‘At the Safe Beaches meeting I reminded the police representative that the police are a part of this community and if we want a community solution to predatory sexual behaviour on our beaches then police need to work with us and become part of the solution and realise that one size doesn’t fit all,’ Mr Jefferys said.