A summer storm is brewing over Little Congwong beach in La Perouse, as local residents, authorities and naturists hoping to have the area classified as an official nudist beach square off against those who visit the area for sex.
Randwick City Council, the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) and police have mounted a joint campaign following complaints from locals about public sexual activity near the secluded coastal stretch.
Officers have patrolled the beach on two Sundays in the last three months, including once two weeks ago, according to a spokesperson for the NSW Department of Environment and Conservation, which oversees the NPWS.
The NPWS has also erected signs at Little Congwong reminding visitors the area is not an official nudist beach and asking them to report illegal or offensive behaviour. Randwick City Council has also put up notices.
Council oversees the beach itself, while the NPWS has authority over the sea and adjacent vegetation.
While nude bathing is an offence at Little Congwong, authorities insist naturism is not the main target of their recent operations.
We are concerned about the damage being caused to the scrub and the littering, the DEC spokesperson said.
Officials at Little Congwong have issued verbal warnings, and surveillance would continue if deemed necessary.
Sexual activity at the beach had attracted authorities’ attention in the past, and residents’ complaints had risen recently in the lead-up to summer, the spokesperson said.
She denied gay men were a particular target -“ anyone caught in the off-limits bushland near the beach faced a $300 fine.
But a Randwick City Council spokesperson said locals were angry about sexual activity at the beach.
There is no problem with the nude bathing but with the fornication, a council spokesperson told Sydney Star Observer.
People who have been going there have found [it] offensive.
Council rangers had collected beat-related litter such as condoms at the bathing spot, and locals were also concerned sexual activity was attracting voyeurs.
Randwick rangers can issue fines of $110 for nudity. Beat users engaged in public sex are also liable for criminal charges.
Naturists have also spoken out against those who frequent Little Congwong for sex, claiming they are undermining efforts to have the area classified as a legal nudist beach.
It’s damaging the image of the beach, it’s damaging the naturism movement as such, Gerald Ganglbauer, convenor of naturist group Free Beach Action Group, told the Star.
Ganglbauer is pushing for Randwick City Council to make Little Congwong an official nudist beach. A council report on the issue is due for release in early December.
In Ganglbauer’s vision, Little Congwong would be a legal nudist beach open to all -“ except those looking for sex.
It’s a family beach and that should be the focus, he said.
If council and the police and the National Park people see a well-behaved crowd, the gay community is not pushing it as a gay beach, the swingers don’t misuse it for their purposes, then it will be all right.
The coordinator of ACON’s Anti-Violence Project, Somali Cerise, told the Star there had been no reports of attacks or police intervention against beat users at Little Congwong.
The advice we’d like to give the community is that if the beat has been mentioned in local media that there’s a risk of homophobic violence, she said.
If people do feel like they’ve received homophobic treatment from police or they’ve had any experience of violence at a beat, we strongly urge them to contact us.
Harbour City Bears secretary Dominic Freeman said he had no reports of members experiencing homophobic behaviour during monthly summer visits to Little Congwong.
But the group now advises members the beach is not officially nudist after being contacted by a NPWS officer earlier this year.