Nudist event causes stir in Papamoa

By Michele McPherson

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A controversial nudist event which last year sparked a heated meeting of concerned residents is set to go ahead at Papamoa again on Saturday.

About 40 nude people will gather on the beach at the end of Sunbrae Grove about 11am - infuriating local resident Ben De Kleynen.

While nudists have been common along the stretch of beach since Mr De Kleynen moved to Sunbrae Grove in 1984, he said last January was the first time he had seen an organised event there.

"It should not happen, it is so close to our street it's about 100 metres from our house. If they want to have their nudist event in the bush that's fine. It is awful, absolutely awful," he said.

Following last year's event, Mr De Kleynen said residents were offended by signs put up either side of the 250m stretch of beach the naturists were occupying, warning the public of the event.<inline type="recurring-inline" id="1003" align="outside" enforce-sites="no" />

"I called the police last year and the police said we can do nothing about it unless they start behaving offensively.

I think it's offensive behaviour if you have all these nudist people walking there. The whole street is against it, that's for sure," he said.<inline type="poll" id="4394" align="outside"/>

Naturist Glenne Findon said the event, supported by Free Beaches NZ, was held annually at different locations across the country.

"We just make a day when we all go down to the beach and just go swimming and fishing and socialise. Last year we had about 40 and this year I would say we're going to easily get that, it's quite popular. All ages, families are welcome, in fact it's a family event really. We hope that if the public walk past they come and join us or talk to us.

"All we want to do is go to the beach and have a nice day there without any clothes," she said.

Ms Findon, who has been a naturist since the 1970s, said groups of up to 200 naturists including families used to enjoy the stretch of beach at the end of Sunbrae Grove, but in recent years the lewd behaviour of a minority had put them off.

"They're exhibitionists and they're breaking the law," she said.

More young people were joining Bay of Plenty Naturists, which has about 460 members, with an increasing number of "empty-nesters" and couples in their 30s and 40s coming along, Ms Findon said. Ms Findon said she felt no need to notify Tauranga City Council or the police about the event.

"It's not actually illegal to be naked on a beach in New Zealand."

Retired church minister and Mount Maunganui Neighbourhood Support co-ordinator Marie Gilpin said there were established residents in the area who were fed up with beach nudity.

"When it first became that [a nudist beach], it wasn't a built-up area and, of course, now it is, and a lot of people in that area are grandparents and they feel as though they can't go to certain parts of the beach because they don't want their children or grandchildren to experience that."

Mrs Gilpin said some of the residents found beach nudity offensive. "Other people say 'oh, get over it' and that's just a personal point of view but you can't run naked around a rugby field, so it's an interesting conversation really."

Papamoa police Sergeant Phil Gillbanks said police would respond to any complaints of disorderly, offensive or anti-social behaviour from the public and would take the appropriate action depending on the circumstances of the offence.

"All we ask is that all beach users consider every individual's views, beliefs, rights and opinions."

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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