By JO-MARIE BROWN

Police will begin patrolling a popular Bay of Plenty nudist beach after complaints about the behaviour of gay men in the sand dunes.

A 42-year-old man will appear in the Tauranga District Court today charged with committing an indecent act in a public place after police visited Papamoa Beach on Tuesday.

About six other men were also seen "acting furtively" near a public walkway but would not face charges.

Detective Senior Sergeant Karl Wright St-Clair said the northwestern end of the beach was a well-known nudist area which police and locals did not have a problem with.

"But it's quite obvious these guys are not just going down there to sunbathe in the nude," he said. "I think what's happened now is that it's a bit of a cruising area for gays."

Papamoa residents had made complaints in recent weeks that prompted police dressed in beach clothes to check the area.

Papamoa resident and co-owner of Tauranga's Chromazones Cruise Club for gay men, Grant Marx, said the area had been a popular "pick-up" beach for over 30 years.

"It used to be quite secluded. No-one really worried about it but now all the houses have been built around it and families have started to go down there, it's become a hot topic."

Mr Marx said around 15 to 20 gay men visited the beach on an average day but pointed out that numerous heterosexual couples had sex there also.

Extra police patrols were a good idea as long as gay men who were minding their own business or just talking to friends were not targeted, Mr Marx said.