The North Shore saga - details 


The area subject to the police-brokered agreement is shown here as "St Leonards Beach." In the case of the southern end, it means going past a tongue of rock to the right, at the bottom of the steps.


If you feel you have been badly treated by a police or council officer at St Leonards or Pohutukawa Bay, please ensure you contact us as soon as possible, thanks. 

NOTE: There's a much more detailed (PDF) image of this area, kindly provided by Rob, our local contact. (It will take some time to fully download though, if you are on dial-up...)

The 'known area' is shown here as St. L North & St. L South 
(The sand, in yellow, is shown at low water) 

Since at least the 1950s and probably well before, St Leonards beach has been one of the most popular of the skinny-dipping spots around Auckland. However, in it's hey-day of the eighties, its very popularity stirred the interest of the perves. But no one took control of them so their numbers slowly increased over the next decade to about half a dozen. Consequentially, the number of genuine users, especially females and families; began to decline.

Then, in the early nineties, the North Shore Council approved the building of two big mansions directly above the beach; and also proposed a bylaw to proscribe "exposure of the pubic area to other persons" (by those over twelve). The Free Beach Group, then based in Auckland, objected. But the New Zealand Naturist Federation negotiated the acceptance of Pohutukawa Bay as a 'recognised area' in exchange for including St Leonards under the aegis of the bylaw. (Technically, this was accomplished by transferring control of Pohutukawa Bay to the Auckland Regional Council.)

The council knew that the FBG was a member of the Naturist Federation but did not understand that the Federation has no interest in beach usage. So the separate Federation negotiations effectively negated the Auckland FBG's efforts and the bylaw was passed in June 1992, despite recognition (in an internal council memo at the time), that the bylaw would not prohibit all (adult) nudity.

In August 1994 the FBG, then based in Wellington, paid civil liberties barrister, Barry Wilson, for a legal opinion which concluded:- "I am reinforced in my view that the Bylaw is unreasonable and ultra vires by the fact that when behaviour is offensive in the sense accepted by Tomkins J., an offender can still be liable under Section 4 of the Summary Offences Act. However, the fact that a person is merely naked on the beach does not render him or her so liable. It is not open to the North Shore City Council to achieve the same effect by maintaining a blanket ban of the kind asserted in this Bylaw. The Bylaw is also vulnerable on the basis that it is a breach of Section 19 of the Bill of Rights Act 1990: 'Freedom from Discrimination. Everyone has the right to freedom from discrimination on the ground of ... ethical belief'."

It also flies in the face of an injunction in the recent local bodies act, requiring councils to allow for the needs of all sections of their communities. Based on an informal survey there are likely to be between 20,000 and 30,000 North Shore residents denied a skinny-dipping option, mostly by the persistence of one council officer. 

Following the expression of concern by the FBG in Wellington, the North Shore Council appointed their 'receiver of complaints,' Malcolm Denmead, as liaison person. It took a little while, but eventually it was realised that Mr Denmead had an agenda of his own (ie: to get rid of the nudes) and for several years, since no one had been prosecuted, we simply ignored his stonewalling.

Then, in 2001 some unfortunate publicity was generated in a North Shore newspaper, and during the following summer, the then Mayor, George Wood, an ex-policeman; persuaded the local police to 'do something'. Soon after, on TV; we were treated to the spectacle of North Shore's Senior Sergeant Bruce Wood, marching along St Leonards yelling at people to, "Put your pants on!"

By now, of course there were no families and virtually no females going to the beach at all, and the complaint level had risen to the dizzy heights of eight or nine per season. Meantime, Sen Sgt Wood discovered that he was not in any legal position to go yelling that requirement at people on the beach!

However, on February 26th, 2003 the North Shore City Council decided:- 


The council also unilaterally cancelled its agreement on Pohutukawa Bay, retaking control, and the notice which had been put up by the ARC, was removed.

In November 2003, at a meeting of the Natural Friends' Network, the council and the police, Sen Sgt Wood proposed that if Naturists stay further than 50m from the access points and more than 30m from in front of passing dressed persons, that would be sufficient to comply with the bylaw. The council representative, Ian Parker (then the boss of Mr Denmead, who was at the meeting); later pointed out that "the council would prefer to have reasonable compliance rather than having to take enforcement action." But until about 2007 Mr Denmead continued his mission of doing his utmost to derail that agreement. 

Protesting that by reducing the numbers at the beach, these tactics make that public space less safe; fell, predictably, on deaf ears.

However, since then we've had a new Mayor, and also a replacement of the council's Patrol Officers (chosen by Mr Denmead) with certified Life Guards.

With the advent of control by the new Auckland Council, we've had no more reports of aggressive actions from officials, however much damage had been done, and the recovery of the place as a true clothes-optional family beach has been fairly slow...

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