The bare truth about summer

'Bare on the beach' at Papamoa (click for image credit)

'Bare on the beach' at Papamoa (click for image credit)

The two new stories we publish today – Liquor laws and Naturism – were initially chosen because they seemed appropriate for the season. Christmas is a time when many of us indulge too much in spirituous drinks, and with the warm weather arriving it is obviously more inviting to take off your clothes.

But recent events have made these choices more relevant. Last week there was considerable debate about the right of a Tauranga naturist (or nudist as he would once have been known) to go jogging in the buff. He had been convicted of offensive behaviour but on appeal his right to run only in his running shoes was upheld. Our new story provides a fascinating context to this case. It shows that the movement for ‘Sun clubs’ or ‘Sunbathing associations’, as nudist groups were known at the time, emerged here in the 1930s. Today there are 17 clubs and over 1,600 members. Among the fascinating pursuits of this subculture is a ‘bare buns fun run’ and a game called miniten, which is played on a half-size tennis court using a double-sided wooden bat.

First night of 10 o'clock closing in 1967, Brittania, Wellington (click for image credit)

First night of 10 o'clock closing in 1967, Britannia hotel, Wellington (click for image credit)

Also last week, New Zealand’s Parliament passed three bills regulating alcohol consumption, which were a response to the Law Commission’s recommendations and sustained public debate about our drinking culture. As the Liquor laws story shows, in its over 150 years of existence New Zealand’s Parliament has been extraordinarily active in liquor legislation. In the early years the most conspicuous legislation was actually aimed at protecting Māori from the effects of one of Europe’s most distinctive customs. Then from about the 1870s legal restrictions began to be imposed on everyone as the temperance movement, which soon became a prohibition movement, took hold. Dancing girls were evicted from bars, barmaids abolished, some electorates went dry and six o’clock closing was introduced – at first as a temporary measure during the First World War, and in 1919 permanently. That year New Zealand missed out by only a few thousand votes from becoming completely dry.

Then the wheel turned. From the 1960s a gradual liberalisation of the liquor laws began, gathering pace with law changes in 1989 and 1999. They made alcohol easily available to people aged 18 and over at most places and at all hours. As more and more teenagers started to consume alcohol, especially with the introduction of RTDs (ready-to-drink alcoholic beverages) in 1996, society began to wonder if the wheel had turned too far. Pressure mounted for new restrictions, some of which were enacted last week. It is a tortuous and fascinating story, which tells us much about the social history of this country.

So, as you enjoy summer pleasures – which may include taking off your clothes on a deserted beach or quaffing champagne on Christmas Day – spare a moment to glance at these two stories and get a new perspective on your enjoyments.

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