Swimming pool advertising fliers recently started arriving in letterboxes throughout Whangārei, sparking a warning from Council to remember even temporary pools must have safe fences.
“Even if a pool is temporary, if it is over 400mm deep it must have a proper, secure fence to keep small children safe,” said Council Building Control Manager Paul Cook.
“Everyone has heard tragic comments like “I only turned my back for a minute,” in response to drownings, but things really can happen that fast. We want to make sure people know that and know what they need to do to keep every pool safe.”
Council will be providing brochures to retail outlets to give to customers to ensure that the safety message goes to those buying new pools, at point of sale.
You can also view that information on the Pool Fencing pages on our website (link below). You can also read more about the New Pool Safety Legislation on the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment website (link below).
New Pool Safety Legislation
It’s all there. Or if anyone has questions they can call us at Council (0800 WDCINFO) and we will give advice.
Keeping children safe
Keeping children safe around pools and preventing drowning is the number one priority for everyone who has a swimming pool. This is the reason for laws around swimming pool fencing.
Pool owners are legally responsible for ensuring their swimming pool fences meet all legal requirements. Council building departments and contractors are responsible for keeping a register of all swimming pools, ensuring that new pools and fences meet current safety standards and that all existing pools and fences meet the standards that applied when they were originally approved.
Pool fences work
Research shows that fencing residential swimming pools reduces accidental drowning of young children.
Drownings of young children in residential swimming pools in New Zealand decreased dramatically after the Fencing of Swimming Pools Act 1987 (FOSPA) was enacted.
Changes to the law
The Building (Pools) Amendment Act 2016 repealed FOSPA and put provisions relating to residential pools into the Building Act 2004. The changes came into effect on 1 January 2017. The changes aim to protect children from drowning in residential pools while also making the requirements more practical and enforceable. The main changes are:
Residential pools must now be inspected every three years.
In certain circumstances, covers can be used as barriers for small heated pools such as spa pools and hot tubs.
Councils can now enforce rules
Councils can now use a “notice to fix” to enforce regulations. Previously, the only enforcement tool under FOSPA was prosecution.
Barriers are required for residential pools that can be filled with water to a depth of 400mm or more and contain water (regardless of the amount of water).
Barriers for residential pools must prevent access by unsupervised children under the age of five years. This requirement applies throughout the life of the pool (except when the pool is empty).
Residential pool barriers must comply with either:
the current Building Code; or
the requirements that applied when the pool was installed (if a building consent, code compliance certificate or certificate of acceptance was issued).
This requires owners maintain their residential pool barriers to at least the standard that applied when those barriers were originally approved.
Under the Act, barriers for residential pools that are ‘small heated pools’, such as spa pools and hot tubs, need to restrict access only when the pool is not in use. This enables covers to be used as barriers for certain small heated pools. Drownings of young children in small heated pools with safety covers are very rare. Note this is for ‘small heated pools’ installed from January 2017.
Existing pools installed before 1 January 2017 are deemed to comply with the residential pool barrier requirements if they complied with the Schedule to Fencing of Swimming Pools Act 1987 (FOSPA).
Valid exemptions granted under the FOSPA continue to apply, including the conditions of those exemptions.
Existing pools installed before 1 January 2017 are deemed to comply but also have to comply with new provisions relating to the side walls of the pool and the means of access into the pool.
The outside surface of the pool must not be climbable.
The top of any side wall must be above 1.2m above the ground level or any other “step” and these must also be 1.2m away from the side of the pool.
Ladders or similar types of access must be readily removeable, made inoperable and must be removed when the pool is not in use.
For the complete list check section 450B of the Act.
Existing and new indoor pools
While FOSPA did not apply to pools wholly enclosed inside a house, young children are at risk if they have unrestricted access to pools in the home environment.
Existing and new indoor pools are now subject to the same barrier requirements as other residential pools. For example, doors to the pool room must not be able to be readily opened by children and must be self-closing or have an alarm.
Temporary residential pools, such as inflatable pools, are subject to the same Building Code requirements as other residential pools.
The pool’s barrier must comply with all the relevant requirements of the Building Code. For example, any gates in the pool’s barrier must be self-closing and the barrier must meet the requirements in the Building Code for structure and durability.
Any pool with a depth of less than 400mm does not require a barrier
Residential pools must be inspected every three years
Whangarei District Council is responsible for ensuring residential pools are inspected in a three-year cycle to check whether they continue to comply with the Act. Periodic inspections do not apply to small heated pools if a compliant cover is used as the residential pool barrier.
We may inspect any residential pool, including a small heated pool, whenever necessary, for example after receiving a complaint about a pool.
These inspections can occur regardless of whether a periodic inspection is due.
The Act provides enforcement tools to help achieve compliance with the the Act.
If a residential pool does not comply with the barrier requirements, territorial authorities can issue a notice to fix to the pool owner.
People who fail to comply with this notice to fix could receive an infringement fee of $500, or a fine of up to $5000. Anyone who disagrees about a decision made about a residential pool and/or barrier may be able to seek a determination from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment if the matter relates to the pool and/or barrier’s compliance with the Building Code, or about a building consent, code compliance certificate or a notice to fix relating to the pool/barrier.