Key Points:

Winston Churchill's immortal line - "We'll fight them on the beaches" - has taken on new meaning in Sydney, with a push to have women who sunbathe topless to cover themselves up.

But it seems, conservative Kiwi females are doing that already.

New South Wales politicians are supporting a proposal by Reverend Fred Nile that would ban all nudity at popular Sydney beaches, such as Bondi, Manly and Coogee.

Auckland Mayor John Banks, who has boycotted beaches after running foul of the coastguard with his jetski in 2001, said he'd never put much thought into sunbathing, topless Aucklanders.

Auckland City Council has no bylaws against topless beachgoers.

"Nothing much shocks me these days but we have people riding down Queen St on motorbikes topless so you can hardly jump up and down about a few topless on a beach.

"I suppose if I was to go to the beach myself, I would take my top off."

A spokeswoman at Police National Headquarters said beach bylaws were a council issue. Police dealt with complaints about "indecent exposure" but topless sunbathing wasn't an issue.

Pauanui Surf Life Saving's head lifeguard, Matt Williams, believes Kiwi women are too conservative to take their gear off. He sees a handful of topless women who are "discreet" and usually brave the beach bare-chested after the holiday period.

European women are more abreast with the idea.

"People should be able to do what they want," said visiting German backpacker Elka Marien, 23.

"We should all be free like children . What's the big deal? It's not porn. It's sunbathing."

Peter Conibear, accommodation manager for the Hawke's Bay Naturist Club, says members of his group are taunted by some members of the public when out and about.

He says New Zealanders who object to topless women sunbathing need to adjust their thinking.

"We're in the 21st century, if people take exception to it they're pretty narrow-minded. I've been with the club seven to eight years and I wouldn't take a second look [at breasts].

"It's not a moral issue but you're always going to get a few who moan and groan."

In the 1940s, a legendary Sydney beach inspector, Aub Laidlaw, patrolled the golden Australian sands, ruler in hand, ensuring that men's and women's bathing costumes conformed to bylaws governing public decency.

Costumes had to cover at least three inches of thigh, as well as the entire front of the body, and wobbly bits had to be kept in place by robust straps. Laidlaw frogmarched 50 or more people a week off the beach, including, in 1945, the first woman to brave Bondi in a bikini, and, in 1961, a group of men wearing Speedo swimming trunks.

The fanatical Laidlaw retired in 1969, eight years after the bikini was legalised, but now it seems his ghost is once again stalking Sydney's beaches.

- ADDITIONAL REPORTING: INDEPENDENT