POLICE and National Parks and Wildlife (NPWS) will be working together to crackdown on nudity at Port Macquarie's Miners Beach this summer.
The campaign comes after a spike in complaints to police about lewd and inappropriate behaviour at the beach, particularly from families using the key link on the region's internationally acclaimed Coastal Walk.
The Coastal Walk is a nine kilometre scenic trail links Westport Park to the Tacking Point Lighthouse.
Miners Beach, located in Sea Acres National Park, is not a dedicated nudist beach - and never has been under the Local Government Amendment (Nude Bathing) Act 1996 No133.
Historically a secluded beach, monitoring and enforcement of clothing at Miners has not been a priority for law enforcement agencies.
Recent upgrades to the Port Macquarie Coastal Walk have seen it become a number one attraction for residents and tourists to the region. As a result, there have also been a rise in reports and complaints of offensive nude behaviour, including men approaching women and children entirely undressed; instances of sexual behaviour witnessed by park visitors; and nude exhibitionist behaviour.
Many of the complaints received by police involve concerns about the behaviour of men.
"Miners Beach is not a nudist beach, public nudity is not permitted in Port Macquarie at any beach," Chief Inspector Aldridge said in launching the campaign.
A number of strategies will be put in place as a part of the operation to stamp out nudity in the area.
Inspector Stuart Campbell said police will be making education a priority before enforcement and will extend a grace period to beach users so conversations can be had with anyone concerned or confused about the rules.
"We will be giving people a chance but if there are those who are blatantly flaunting the rules we will take action," he said.
"This is a tourist area and we want everyone to be able to enjoy it. It is quite confronting for people, especially families and young children, when faced with a nude person."
Council group manager Liam Bulley said more than 500,000 people use the Coastal Walk every year.
There are only a handful of designated nudist beaches in New South Wales. The legality of nude beaches rests with the state and local councils.
Council has no plans of making any beach in Port Macquarie open to nudity. In the development of the Coastal Walk Master Plan in 2017, council identified nudity at Miners Beach as a concern.
NPWS rangers and uniformed and plain-clothed police will be at the beach advising visitors of what the rules and expectations are.
Public nudity or 'obscene exposure' is an offence under Summary Offences Act 1988. Penalties can be issued as a fine or result in an appearance in court.
Anyone found to be wilfully exposing themselves on Miners Beach will be prosecuted. The maximum penalty for obscene exposure is imprisonment for six months, an $1100 fine or both.
Nudity at the beach has been tolerated by the local community for more than three decades.
As far back as 2006, signs warning beachgoers of nudity at Miners Beach were removed by NPWS to discourage the behaviour, as authorities attempted to solve the problem between nude bathers and walkers.
NPWS worked closely with police and council, as grander plans for the Coastal Walk's upgrade were being considered.
At the time, Free Beaches Australia Inc rallied to maintain the unofficial nude status of the beach, saying warning signage allowed people to make an informed decision about whether to visit the beach or not.
Lonely Planet has listed Australia's six most popular (not necessarily legal) nudist beaches as Maslin Beach in Adelaide; Sunnyside North Beach in Melbourne; Cow Bay north of Cairns; Alexandria Bay in Noosa; North Swanbourne Beach in Perth; and the nation's oldest stretch of sand enjoyed by naturists, Lady Bay Beach in Sydney where nudity was legalised in 1976.
Queensland is the only Australian state to have no legal nude beaches.
Police are encouraging the public to report instances of nudity witnessed at Miners Beach to Port Macquarie Police on 6583 0199 or Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.
What else is making news?
Thank you for valuing local journalism with your subscription. While you're with us, you can also receive updates straight to your inbox from the Port Macquarie News. To make sure you're up to date with all the news, sign up here.