Paul Bibby & staff reporters
Nude bathing at Tyagarah Beach could be banned within weeks if councillors support Byron Council staff’s recommendation at today’s meeting to revoke the beach’s clothes-optional declaration.
But Council may look to replace Tyagarah with a different, less-remote nudist beach in the Shire, with Belongil Beach emerging as an early favourite.
Councillor Michael Lyon (Greens) told The Echo that he was ‘leaning’ toward voting in favour of the staff recommendation.
‘The idea that children can’t walk from Tyagarah to Main Beach and feel safe is obviously pretty concerning,’ Cr Lyon said.
‘The isolation of Tyagarah is a contributor to that.’
He and the other Greens councillors were considering making one of the Shire’s ‘more prominent’ beaches clothing optional because having more people around would discourage lewd and criminal behaviour, Cr Lyon said.
‘Belongil Beach is being put forward as a possible option.
‘I think that would potentially work well because there’s more passive surveillance.’
Given that Byron’s Greens councillors are in the majority there is a strong possibility that the staff recommendation will be passed.
In recommending that Tyagarah lose its clothes-optional status, staff repeatedly referred to discussions within, and submissions to, the Safe Beaches Stakeholder Group.
During its two years of operation, the stakeholder group has repeatedly heard that the problem of lewd and criminal behaviour in and around the clothes-optional area at Tyagarah was likely to be far worse that the police statistics suggested, owing to underreporting.
Among the main factors contributing to the behaviour was the ‘vast presence of inappropriate lewd social media sites promoting lewd sexual behaviour in the area’, and the ‘remoteness and public nature of the area’ which lent itself to poor ‘passive surveillance’ and slow police responses to incidents.
The report noted the significant difference in beach visitation between remote and non-remote beaches.
This difference underscored the far higher crime rates at Tyagarah compared with township beaches.
The site was also deemed attractive to individuals predisposed to offending because it was the only lawful clothes-optional beach within the region and within 200km of a capital city.
Council staff noted that submissions to the safe beaches stakeholder group were predominantly in favour of closure, with 74 per cent seeking this option.
One strongly worded submission stated that it was ‘only a matter of time before a father/husband/son/daughter looks to the creators of the clothing-optional beach [Council] to be accountable for the rape/attack of their loved one’.
The beach safety stakeholder group has previously debated consideration of alternative locations for a nudist beach within the Shire, but members rejected all alternative locations on the basis that they either:
- lacked the necessary supporting infrastructure needed for safe use or
- conflicted with the existing use of the beach.
But the staff report has been criticised by the Byron Naturist group, which said the push for closure came despite staff admitting that ‘enhanced stakeholder safety initiatives implemented to date have reduced the frequency of lewd sexual behaviour and criminal offences’.
Byron Naturists representative Debra Conomy said in a media release that the group’s experiences at Tyagarah were ‘overwhelmingly positive and we are not witnessing the sensational sexual acts described by opponents’.
Ms Conomy added, ‘We made a comprehensive submission to Council staff but our evidence was ignored in their report. For example, a bizarre graph about cars with Queensland rego plates parked at a public beach was included, while our empirical data showing beach users were mainly responsible couples – not deviants – was omitted’.
‘The Council decision depended almost exclusively on input from the Safe Beaches Committee but this group was hijacked by an abolitionist faction in early 2018,’ she said.
Council will debate the issue on Thursday October 18. The meeting starts at 9am.