A topless sunbather was bullied and hounded from the beach where she was catching late afternoon rays - and believes she was threatened with social media shaming if she dared call police.

The Auckland woman in her 50s told the Herald on Sunday she was "terrified" after being abused by a group of about 20 people and the focus of a sustained attack by two women.

The women shouted at her, flicked and kicked sand at her, took her photograph, which the victim took as a threat it would be posted online if she went to police over their behaviour.

The incident unfolded about 5pm on Thursday at Point Chevalier Beach in Auckland - a popular inner-city beach and swimming spot.

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The woman regularly takes an afternoon swim, although Point Chevalier is not her usual beach.

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After taking a dip, she said she removed the top of her swimming costume to lie face down on a towel and soak up the sun. After a brief period, she flipped to her back, covering her face with a top to shield her eyes from the sun.

When she heard voices calling out "excuse me", she assumed it was directed at another beachgoer - until she felt a towel being thrown across her chest.

"There are kids here clear off," she said she was told. "At that point, two women set upon me - and they really set upon me. They were kicking and throwing sand at me."

The women continued to harangue her about children being present on the beach, and the sunbather became aware they were backed up by a group of about 20 others from about 30 metres away.

"The older woman had this phone and was shoving it in my face." A younger woman in her teens backed her up, swearing at her repeatedly.

Covered in sand, and her wet towel caked in it, she stood and tried to shake it clean. It became clear she was leaving when she pulled on a top but the two women continued to hurl abuse.

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Popular Auckland inner-city beach, Point Chevalier. Photo / Dean Purcell
Popular Auckland inner-city beach, Point Chevalier. Photo / Dean Purcell

As she left, scared and upset, the woman who had brandished the phone said: "Don't you report this to police because I've got your picture." She took it as a threat the pictures would be distributed online.

Leaving the beach, she encountered two young men heading down to the beach without shirts. The sight drove her to shout at the women: "Oh look! He's got titties too!"

And then, as she crested the walkway to the beach, she turned and flashed at her abusers. "That was my last salute," she said.

The incident left the woman too frightened to dress in the changing rooms. "I was terrified they were still following me. I knew I just had to get out of there."

As she left, she called police to report the encounter. During the call, she expressed her bewilderment to police, saying: "I'm only an A-Cup. It's not like I'm a double-D."

The sunbather said it was only the second time she had encountered an adverse view from other beachgoers while on an Auckland beach. The only other occasion while topless was at a different beach, at which she heard a man say: "I didn't know this was a nudist beach."

"It's not illegal to be topless. I was minding my own business. I do generally try to be discreet. They probably should have just cast their eyes somewhere else."

At the beach on Saturday the Herald spoke to nearly a dozen people who all said they had never seen any kind of disorderly behaviour and were shocked to hear about the incident.

"One old fella is always here sunbathing in his g-string and I don't ever see him getting any abuse," one beachgoer said.

Most of the people spoken to said they didn't see anything wrong with sunbathing topless with one saying: "If people don't want to look then they don't have to."

Dominique Donaghy said there was a fair few men topless and it should be no different for woman.

"Society needs to change, it's 2019. It shouldn't be a thing, even with kids around. We should be bringing them up not to make a deal of it."

However, one person said it was each person's wish but in a public place women should be cautious of "inappropriate boys".

"It's probably not a good idea," she said.

Police confirmed a complaint was received from the woman, although said no patrol car was sent to the beach because they were not told she had been photographed.

A spokeswoman for police said there was "no specific offence for nudity" or for women being topless in public. There were possible charges, judged on each incident, which included indecent exposure or performing an indecent act in a public place.

A reading of the legislation provided by police shows indecent exposure requires displaying genitals - not breasts - while an indecent act requires an action - in this case, sunbathing.

A spokeswoman for the Auckland Outdoor Naturist Club said it was the first time she had heard of someone being abused on Auckland beaches for topless sunbathing.

"This is extraordinary and inexplicable and horrible this person experienced that.

However, she said other countries had an "acceptance of being topless and complete nudity" while at the beach which was absent in New Zealand society.

"New Zealand is getting more and more accepting - but it will take time."

A spokesperson for Auckland Council said it neither "permits nor denies" topless or nude sunbathing.

"Auckland Council has over 4000 parks, reserves and beaches, so these spaces are a huge asset for people to enjoy. If there are concerns about specific activities which breach regulations (such as letting off fireworks) we will send out proactive patrols."