Local Government Amendment (Nude Bathing) Bill



About this Item
SpeakersAllan Ms Pam
BusinessBill, First Reading, Second Reading

LOCAL GOVERNMENT AMENDMENT (NUDE BATHING) BILL

Bill introduced and read a first time.
Second Reading

Ms ALLAN (Blacktown - Minister for the Environment) [10.37]: I move:
      That this bill be now read a second time.

The purpose of this bill is to permit nude bathing at certain designated beaches in some national parks and in the sea adjacent to them. The object of the bill is to amend section 633 of the Local Government Act 1993 so as to specifically allow five designated beaches and the sea adjacent to them to be used for the purposes of nude bathing. These designated beaches, which will be listed in section 633 of the Local Government Act, are as follows: Lady Bay Beach, which is also known as Lady Jane Beach; Cobblers Beach; Obelisk Beach; Werrong Beach; and Samurai Beach. The land area of each of these designated beaches is situated within a national park. As a result of this bill, each of the designated beaches will be able to be lawfully used for the purposes of nude bathing without any need for the relevant local council to erect a notice allowing nude bathing at the beach concerned. The bill also provides that a local council notice under section 633 cannot prohibit the use of a designated beach for the purposes of nude bathing, and that any such existing notice has no effect at these designated beaches.

Many people of all ages in the community enjoy nude bathing as a recreational pastime. It is entirely appropriate that these people are able to enjoy their pastime at suitable beaches. Unfortunately, in the past there has been some uncertainty as to whether nude bathers, or naturists as they are called, would be able to enjoy their pastime. This will no longer be the case; the designation of these beaches for nude bathing will be enshrined in legislation. Owing to the public demand for nude bathing, in the late 1970s the New South Wales Government under Premier Neville Wran announced that certain beaches within national parks, being beaches that had traditionally been used for nude bathing, would be officially declared as nude beaches. These beaches were Reef Beach and Lady Bay Beach, both in Sydney Harbour National Park, Werrong Beach in the Royal National Park and Samurai Beach in Tomaree National Park.
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However, it would appear that the statutory power to regulate nude bathing in actual fact lay with local councils. That was confirmed by the Local Government Act 1993. Section 633, subsection (2) of the Act states:
      A person who is in public view in the nude in any place referred to in subsection (1) -

being a public bathing place under the control of a council, a river, a watercourse or tidal or non-tidal water, the sea adjacent to an area, or a public place adjacent to any of those places -
      is guilty of an offence unless a notice erected by the council at the place allows the use of the place (or part of the place) for the purposes of nude bathing.

Subsection (4) of section 633 permits councils to erect a notice to allow the use of a place, or any part of a place, open to public view for the purposes of nude bathing. Therefore, the responsibility of councils currently extends to beaches within the national parks and wildlife estate. Accordingly, those members of the New South Wales community who enjoy the pastime of nude bathing have been dependent on the goodwill of individual local councils to ensure that they can enjoy nude bathing. Some members of the community may be concerned at the prospect of nude bathing occurring in close proximity to their place of residence and may voice these concerns with their local council. While local councils are elected to serve the interests of local areas, the State Government has been elected to serve the interests of all people in New South Wales.

This legislation will ensure that nude bathers have unrestricted access to some popular nude bathing beaches which have traditionally been used for this pastime for many years. Under the Local Government Act, local councils will retain the general responsibility for regulating bathing in a public place, including at the beaches designated in this bill for nude bathing. The Government recognises that individuals in the community have a right to commune with nature in a natural state. I have received many items of correspondence from members of the community who represent the views of families - including mothers, fathers and children - and who support nude bathing in certain areas. The beaches designated for nude bathing are suitable for this activity. They possess certain characteristics which make them ideal for nude bathers while protecting the sensibilities of those in the community who are offended by nudity.

These beaches are all within the national parks and wildlife estate. This means that naturists can enjoy their pastime in a natural setting. This is important as, for many nude bathers, a large part of the attraction of this pastime is the feeling of being closer to nature. The designated beaches are not directly adjacent to residential areas. Some members of the community are sensitive to nudity or opposed to nude bathing. For this reason, it would be inappropriate for designated beaches to be immediately adjacent to residential areas. The designated beaches are accessible to those who may wish to use them, but sufficiently inaccessible so as to discourage mass visitation or accidental visitation by people who do not wish to partake in the pastime of nude bathing or who may be offended by nudity. As I have already pointed out, each of the designated beaches is within a national park. Direct access by motor vehicle will not be possible and users of the beaches will have to use a walking track through the national park.

The National Parks and Wildlife Service will erect signs at each beach to make sure that people are aware that the beach is designated for the purpose of nude bathing. The National Parks and Wildlife Service will also identify the beaches as being designated for nude bathing in publications such as pamphlets. The designated beaches are beaches where nude bathing has traditionally occurred. I would like briefly to describe the attributes and history of each of these beaches. Werrong Beach is a small, isolated beach off the coast track in the Royal National Park. The nearest residential area is the township of Otford. It is in the local government area of Wollongong City Council. The beach was publicly announced as a beach designated for the purpose of nude bathing by the then Minister for Lands, the Hon. Paul Landa, in 1977. It was already being used for nude bathing at that time and has been continually used for nude bathing to the present time. There are numerous other attractive beaches within the Royal National Park, such as Garie Beach, Wattamolla Beach and Marley Beach, that will be available for the purpose of clad public bathing.

There are numerous other wonderful beaches along the Illawarra coastline, just south of Werrong Beach, that will continue to be used by public bathers. Samurai Beach is a small beach in Tomaree National Park and forms part of One Mile Beach several kilometres from the small town of Anna Bay. It is within the local government area of Port Stephens. Like Werrong Beach, this beach was publicly announced as a beach designated for the purpose of nude bathing by the Hon. Paul Landa in 1977. It was already being used for nude bathing at that time and has been continually used for nude bathing to the present time. In summer Samurai Beach is, arguably, the most popular naturist beach in New South Wales. The Port Stephens area has many other wonderful beaches available to public bathers.

The other three designated beaches are within the Sydney Harbour National Park. Lady Bay Beach, which is also known as Lady Jane Beach, is at South Head, in the local government area of Woollahra Council. Lady Bay Beach was publicly announced as a beach for unclad bathing in 1976 by the then Premier, the Hon. Neville Wran. The use of this beach for nude bathing goes back over 20 years and is well known to the general community. Council currently permits nude bathing at the beach, subject to persons confining their nudity to the beach and to the water. Grassed areas, rock and
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bushland near the beach are prohibited to nudists. The beach is well protected from the nearest residential areas and its use does not contribute significantly to local traffic congestion.

Obelisk Beach and Cobblers Beach are also located within the Sydney Harbour National Park on the other side of Middle Head and are within the local government area of Mosman. These beaches have had informal status as nude bathing beaches for approximately 20 years and are promoted as such in some international travel brochures. They are well protected from residential areas by distance, the national park and the adjacent military reserve. It is likely that some of the Commonwealth military land will be developed for residential use, but the beaches will remain secluded. The National Parks and Wildlife Service will undertake works at Obelisk Beach to improve its facilities. Reef Beach, which is in the Sydney Harbour National Park near Manly, will not be a designated beach. The Government's policy expressed prior to the election was to designate Reef Beach as a beach for nude bathing because of its long history as a beach used for that purpose.

The Government has decided that Reef Beach is more valuable as a recreational resource for the general population rather than as a nudist beach. Ample provision is made for nude bathers in Sydney with the designation of Lady Bay, Obelisk and Cobblers beaches as well as Werrong Beach in the far south of Sydney. The National Parks and Wildlife Service was directed by the previous Government to undertake significant works at Reef Beach following the decision of Manly Council to prohibit nude bathing. Some $90,000 was allocated by the then Government for track construction, bringing the Manly scenic walkway on to and across Reef Beach; for refurbishment of toilet facilities; and for bush regeneration. Many local residents have volunteered their time and effort to the bush regeneration work at Reef Beach and I recognise their contribution in this respect. The beach and the Manly scenic walkway have proved to be enormously popular with the local community. This has significantly changed recreational use patterns at Reef Beach and therefore I believe that if nude bathing were to be permitted at Reef Beach it would inflame conflict between bushwalkers, local residents, local councils and naturists.

I pay tribute in particular to the Free Beach Association, which is led by Mr Bob Reed. Although the association has campaigned for many years to return Reef Beach to the status of a nude beach, the association has taken a responsible approach to the Government's decision not to return Reef Beach to that status. This morning I was listening to Bob Reed on the Jenny Brockie show on radio 2BL. While he expressed some disappointment that Reef Beach would not be returned to its nude beach status he was certainly very pleased that the Government had decided to expand the number of legal nude beaches in Sydney, Wollongong and Port Stephens. The Free Beach Association, one of the most important associations that represents naturists in this State, has exhibited a maturity in this debate which has sometimes been lacking in the groups that have traditionally opposed Reef Beach being used as a nudist beach. The attitude of Manly Council, the honourable member for Manly, Dr Peter Macdonald, and some local residents in Balgowlah has been a great deal less mature than the eventual response from the Free Beach Association to the Government's decision.

I turn briefly to the provisions of the bill. Clause 1 sets out the short title of the proposed Act. Clause 2 provides for the commencement of the proposed Act on a day to be appointed by proclamation. Clause 3 is a formal provision giving effect to the amendments, which are set out in schedule 1, to the Local Government Act 1993. Schedule 1 amends section 633 of the Local Government Act 1993 in the manner described in the overview of the bill. This legislation is extremely important. It secures the right of nude bathers to enjoy their legitimate pastimes at these designated beaches. I commend the bill to the House.

Debate adjourned on motion by Mr Hazzard.