New law to strengthen pool safety and compliance

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9 January 2017

A major overhaul of swimming pool safety requirements has been welcomed by the Whanganui District Council.

Taking effect from 1 January 2017, The Building (Pools) Amendment Bill has been passed by Parliament to strengthen pool safety compliance and reduce the accidental drowning of children. It also widens the number of enforcement tools available to local authorities.

The Bill repeals the Fencing of Swimming Pools Act 1987 and incorporates swimming pool safety requirements into the Building Act 2004. This means the requirements will now stand alongside the other safety and building regulation powers contained within that Act.

The Bill introduces a compulsory nationwide requirement for all swimming pools to be inspected and certified every three years to ensure ongoing safety compliance. Under the previous regime, many local authorities carried out three yearly or periodic inspections, although there was no requirement to do so.

Any swimming or spa pool which is capable of holding more than 400mm depth of water requires a building consent. This includes kitset and inflatable pools (which are erected for a short period of time each season) and spa pools. Dependent on the size of the pool, there may not be a requirement for specific pool fencing. However, please check with the Whanganui District Council first.

“The Council can instantly fine people carrying out work without a building consent and this also includes swimming pools,” Council Environmental Standards Team Leader Greg Hoobin says.

The Council will be contacting pool owners in due course to organise an inspection of their pool’s safety features as part of the changes.

While the new rules ensure greater compliance with safety requirements, the new law also relaxes safety requirements in certain key respects.

•      Above ground spa pools do not need to be fenced, provided that they restrict access to young children by having a lockable, child-resistant cover, and are at least 760 mm above the ground

•      Garden and drainage ponds are also explicitly excluded from swimming pool requirements

•      The rules only apply to residential pools with a maximum depth of 400 mm or more

•      Pools (including infinity pools) are no longer required to be fenced on all four sides, instead requiring physical barriers that restrict access to the pool by unsupervised children under 5 years of age

•      Safety gates are no longer required to be self-latching. Instead gates must “not be able to be readily opened by children, although they still have to open outwards and swing shut automatically

If you have a swimming/spa pool that has not been added to the Council’s register, or if you have concerns about fencing, we encourage you to contact us on 349 0001.

Page reviewed: 14 Jun 2017 8:33am