Delegates to the Local Government Association conference in Auckland this week supported a North Shore City Council proposal to get the Fencing of Swimming Pools Act rewritten.
The move comes just head of a High Court hearing on a controversial Waitakere case, from which a declaratory judgment is expected.
North Shore mayor George Wood said the 1987 act was confusing and clearer rules were needed to help pool owners, designers, builders, industry groups & local bodies.
“The legislation has proved controversial & difficult to enforce since its inception. Parts of it are unclear and its current association with the Building Act is confusing,” Mr Wood said.
Areas he wants clarified include:
the legitimacy of lockable spa pool covers
the definition of the immediate pool area
the situation where doors from the house directly enter the pool area, and
the interaction between this act, the Building Code & the Building Act.
“When the act was introduced, most councils believed its primary aim was preventing young children gaining access to the pool from outside the property,” Mr Wood said.
2 recent determinations from the Building Industry Authority have had a significant impact on pool fencing approvals & their interpretation. The determinations are binding decisions on technical matters of doubt or dispute about compliance with the Building Code.
The new interpretations mean lockable spa covers are no longer acceptable as an alternative to compliant pool fencing, and it’s no longer acceptable to have doors from the house entering the pool area unless it is a confined area and access is restricted.
“Due to the new BIA interpretations, local authorities are now left to decipher the existing legislation – and they are doing so in different ways. The intent of the changes is to keep young children safe, but creates confusion for people who previously complied and now find they don’t,” he said.
North Shore City has an estimated 5200 homes with pools, and a large proportion would no longer meet the new requirement as their situations might no longer meet the interpretation of the immediate pool area as outlined in the BIA determination.
“There are 2 Acts of Parliament that deal with pools: the Fencing of Swimming Pools Act and the Building Act. This has caused confusion & frustration for the local authorities who are required to enforce the rules and pool owners who need to follow them,” Mr Wood said.
A regional group of council officers has been working to seek clarity from the Government on pool fencing rules & regulations.
North Shore City Council would like responsibility for the Fencing of Swimming Pools Act move from the Internal Affairs Department to the proposed new Building & Housing Department.And, like all other councils, North Shore City is also keenly awaiting the High Court’s ruling on what is meant by the “immediate pool area”. The court will consider a controversial Waitakere pool fencing case next week and will make declaratory judgment.