Residential pools

Beach ball in a pool

Residential pools are great for fun and relaxation. By following the rules around owning a pool, you’re helping keep our young children safe.

As well as actively supervising children, you need to make sure your pool has the required safety measures in place and that these are operating effectively. This applies whether you own or rent a property with a pool.

All pools that require fencing need to have a building consent. They also need to be registered with the council and inspected every three years.

Following the rules for fencing your pool

If a pool can hold water to a depth of 400mm or more you need a barrier that complies with the law, regardless of whether small children live on the property.

It doesn’t matter whether the pool is permanent, temporary, inflatable, indoor or outdoor – the rule still applies.

What counts as a barrier?

Barriers for pools less than 1.2 metres high

A fence is required for all in-ground swimming pools and above-ground swimming pools with sides less than 1.2 metres high.

As with any other building work, you need the proper information before you start. There are specific criteria to meet around fence design, listed below. Local pool fence retailers can provide you with information on fence design options.

Once you’ve decided on the fence design, talk to our building control team to check that it fits with the rules. You can get in touch by phoning the council on 06 349 0001, emailing or applying online via this link: Apply for Building Consent Whanganui District Council

Be aware that as well as a fence, you’ll need a suitable backflow preventer (vacuum breaker) fitted to the tap used for filling the pool. This stops your pool hose siphoning water out of the pool and into the pipes in your home.

For pools in urban areas, backwash water – from cleaning the filter – needs to go into a gully trap. This is so we can keep pool water out of the stormwater system.

Your pool must remain empty until it has passed its final inspection and you have a Code Compliance Certificate for the work.

Information on current costs for building consents for swimming pools can be found here: Building Services Fees & Charges Whanganui District Council

Fence design criteria

The fence must be 1.2 metres or higher. However, if there’s a permanent object (such as a barbecue or a deck) within 1.2m of the fence, the fence needs to be 1.2m higher than the top of the object.

The fence must enclose the immediate pool area only, so it can’t include things like clotheslines, vegetable gardens, garden sheds and play areas. However, pool furniture, barbecues, maintenance equipment and changing room facilities are allowed within the immediate pool area.

Gaps in fencing material

If the fence is horizontally close boarded, the maximum gap between each board is 10mm.

The gap between horizontal rails on the outside of the fence cannot be less than 900mm.

Gaps in vertical cladding and gaps under fences and gates cannot be more than 100mm wide.

Gaps in trellis, mesh or netting can be no wider than 10mm if the fence is 1.2 metres high and no wider than 50mm if the fence is 1.8 metres high.


All gates opening to pool areas must open outwards (away from the pool) and have a device fitted that means they self-close and self-latch unaided from 150mm.

There must be no way that the gate can be left open.

The automatic latch must be 1.5 metres above ground level on the outside of the gate or 1.2m above ground level on the inside of the gate.

When lifted up or down, the gate must not release the latch device or come off its hinges.


Any door in a building that provides direct access to a pool needs to be self-closing and self-latching, or fitted with an alarm that sounds if the door doesn’t close after someone.

The door’s locking device or alarm deactivation switch needs to be fitted at least 1.5 metres from floor level.


Windows set lower than 1.2m from the inside floor level need restrictors so the window can only open to 100mm.

Using a boundary fence as part of your pool fence

If you’re using a boundary fence as part of your pool fencing, it’s your responsibility to make sure the fencing complies. If your neighbour puts trellis or a pile of wood on their side, the fence wouldn’t comply because a child could climb over. The way to ensure your boundary fence is safe, and not have to worry about what your neighbour is doing on their side, is to make sure it meets the criteria below:

  • the boundary fence is 1.8 metres or higher
  • gaps in the boundary fence are no more than 100mm
  • the boundary fence is at least 1 metre from the pool
  • there’s a 900mm clear zone between the boundary fence and the pool.

Barriers for pools 1.2 metres and higher

For pools with walls 1.2 metres or higher (measured from the ground next to the pool), no fence is needed if the pool wall can be an effective barrier. Pools that meet this criteria do not need a building consent, registration with the council or inspections.

To qualify as an effective barrier:

  • the sides of the 1.2m or higher pool need to be smooth so there’s no projections that can be used as foot or handholds to climb into the pool, and
  • the ladder or means of getting into the pool needs to be taken away whenever the pool isn’t in use.

If you think your pool is exempt from needing a fence because it meets the criteria above, check the building code guidance on ‘Means to restricting access to residential pools’ via this link:  F9 Restricting access to residential pools | Building Performance

Note also that there needs to be a 1.2m clear zone around the pool at all times.



Barriers for spa pools and hot tubs

A building consent, registration and three-yearly inspections are not required for small heated pools, such as spas and hot tubs, which meet the criteria below.

A safety cover is an acceptable barrier for a spa pool or hot tub if the pool:

  • has a water surface area of 5m2 or less
  • has sides 760mm high or higher than the adjacent floor
  • has no steps and walls that cannot easily be climbed
  • has a complying lockable lid – see below.


A complying lockable lid for a spa pool or hot tub is one that:

  • restricts entry to children under five years old when closed
  • can withstand a foreseeable load
  • can be easily closed
  • has signage indicating its child safety features.


Pool cover fastenings must:

  • be able to keep the pool cover in place so there’s no opening a 100mm sphere could pass through when a 10kg force is applied to the cover
  • have hold-down straps fitted with lockable plastic snap buckles 33mm wide or metal padlocks.




Maintaining pool safety

Make sure pool fences remain in good condition, gates and latches are operating correctly and gates are not left propped open.

Be mindful that there needs to be a clear 1.2m around the pool barrier at all times so children can’t climb onto an object and into the pool.

Pool registration and inspections

If your pool requires fencing you need to register it with the council and get it inspected every three years. We will send you a reminder letter when your pool is due to be inspected.

To register your pool with the council, email the building control team on

You can choose whether your pool is inspected by the council – at a cost of $80 – or an independently qualified pool inspector. You can find a list of independent qualified pool inspectors on this link:

If your pool doesn’t pass the inspection, the council’s building control team can work with you to help get it up to standard. There may be a re-inspection charge.

If action isn’t taken, owners can be issued with a notice to fix or an infringement notice under the Building Act to ensure compliance is achieved.

More information

For more information contact the council on 06 349 0001 or check out central government’s guidance for pool owners on the links below: