Wellington council candidate wants women to be able to swim topless at public pools

Thomas Morgan supports women being allowed to swim topless at public pools in Wellington.
Thomas Morgan supports women being allowed to swim topless at public pools in Wellington. Photo credit: Facebook / Thomas Morgan for Southern Ward / Getty

A man standing for Wellington City Council wants women to be allowed to swim topless at public pools.

Thomas Morgan is running for Paekawakawa/Southern Ward as an independent candidate. In his personal statement, included in booklets sent to more than 20,000 voters, he listed "topless public swimming pools" as one of many ideas he has to improve life in his constituency. 

A self-described "sharp political strategist", Morgan readily admits he included the pool idea in his candidate booklet to generate public attention. But, as he told Newshub, the policy itself is genuine. 

"It's on the extreme end of unpopular, maybe. But I think as an issue, it has some merit."

This past summer, Barcelona officials ordered all municipal pools to allow female swimmers to bathe topless. Morgan says if New Zealand wants to maintain our reputation as a world leader on women's rights, it's the next logical step. 

"We're all for women's liberation, so here's something to chat about," he says. "It would require a huge change in mindset."

Allowing female nipples to go uncovered in public pools would help to demystify the female body, which Morgan says is often unfairly sexualised in a way male bodies are not.

"Parents think female breasts are sinful or offensive somehow... this would help make it neutral. Everyone's got different-shaped noses and we don't cover those up."

As well as being a "political boffin", Morgan studies sociology and is hasty to refute any accusations of lewd intentions. 

"I'm a male, so my view is tainted as lecherous, but it's actually all academic," he says. "Swimsuits are so small these days it wouldn't make much of a difference."

Morgan doesn't have a clear policy worked out yet and is open to suggestions, such as limiting topless swimming to certain times of the day or having women-only sessions. He says such changes to pool rules could benefit all kinds of women, such as those who wear modest swimsuits or avoid swimming with men for religious reasons. 

He's received a lot of public feedback on the idea, and says male support is very high, perhaps unsurprisingly.

"I suspect a lot of women are keen as mustard as well, but they're less likely to admit it."

He says Wellington, a left-wing hub where topless female sunbathers are a common sight along Oriental Bay, would be the ideal place to kickstart a movement. 

"The world is becoming more liberal, but in stages. I'm probably jumping the gun by about 20 years."

The other candidates for Paekawakawa/Southern Ward are somewhat less impressed with the idea. 

"I think it's gross and deeply inappropriate and misjudged," Fleur Fitzsimons told Newshub.

While she's committed to maintaining the Council's appropriate stance on women being able to breastfeed in public, she says there's been no demand for topless pools. 

Humphrey Hanley was blunt about whether he'd support the policy.

"Absolutely not."

He told Newshub women being able to go topless is a legitimate area for debate, but only in the context of allowing mothers to breastfeed. Hanley is annoyed local elections are being dominated by frivolous issues, which he says draw attention away from serious topics like improving Wellington's accessibility. 

Fellow candidate Laurie Foon could not be reached for comment. 

Wellington Mayor Justin Lester told Newshub he doesn't support women being allowed to bathe topless at public pools.

In May, a woman was told to get out of a swimming pool in Kilbirnie, Wellington when she started breastfeeding her child. 

Topless protesters took part in a 'Free the Nipple' demonstration on Auckland's Mission Bay in summer 2016. 


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