Confusion Over Nudity Laws in New Zealand

FOR DOWNLOAD MORE GALLERY On the Kapiti Coast in New Zealand, authorities decided to remove all wording referencing nudity from the 2008 beach bylaws "on the grounds that it would be unlikely that the council could successfully prosecute anyone for being nude on the beach".

But a 26 year-old man who decided to test the new "legality" of the law was surprised when he was approached by police and asked to cover up because someone complained. Apparently, you can be nude, but if anyone finds it offensive, you will have to cover up or face charges.

A similar situation in Wellington has people confused. The City Council removed an old bylaw requiring "suitable bathing costumes" on beaches and other public places, but people who go nude can still be arrested under the Summary Offenses Act.

Using this logic, perhaps government should suspend all laws and act only when someone is offended by something. Usually it's done in reverse - if enough people are offended by something, such as tobacco smoking or excessive noise, ordinances and bylaws are adopted to deal with the issue, usually as the result of public hearings or ballots. Opening up the courts to deal with generalities rather than specifics is sheer laziness on the part of lawmakers, forcing police and prosecutors to impose their own interpretations and judgements on a case-by-case basis.

These councils should be commended for axing outdated unconstitutional laws regarding dress codes on beaches, but dropping the responsibility on the public and the police is an abdication of duty, and opens the door for crazies on the outer fringes of both sides to run rampant.

On the positive side, a group of naturists took it upon themselves to clean up a Kapiti Coast beach, in an attempt to show their love of nature.

Naturists have been given a great opportunity in New Zealand to show that their motivations are healthy and natural, and not founded in exhibitionism or other sexual intentions.

Gradually over time, the public has become more and more accepting of revealing swimsuits, and it's not a giant leap to go from wearing a bikini or a Speedo to wearing nothing at all.

Once the numbers of people going nude on New Zealand beaches exceeds the public's capacity to react, perhaps police will begin asking those wearing swimsuits to strip down because a naturist was offended.

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