Published 20 June 2006
Standards New Zealand has issued the new standard on swimming pool fencing for public comment. The submissions period opened on 19 June and closes on Friday 11 August.
“The intention in developing the standard is that Parliament will be able to consider using it as a replacement for the schedule in the Fencing of Swimming Pool Act 1987, by way of an amendment to the act,” Standards development chairman Ian Godfrey said. Mr Godfrey is also a senior building advisor at Manukau City Council.
“The standard will provide clear guidance for the design & construction of safety barriers to restrict young children’s access to swimming pools. The fencing of swimming pools is addressed in both the Fencing of Swimming Pools Act and the Building Code. While both documents are well intentioned, industry is seeking clearer directions on the obligations which need to be met by territorial authorities & pool owners for ongoing compliance,” Mr Godfrey said.
North Shore City Council’s environmental protection team leader, Warwick Robertson, said a single unambiguous set of rules for pool fencing was long overdue: “We’ve all been struggling with an unworkable situation for many years.”
Waitakere City Council asked the High Court for a declaratory judgment on the correct interpretation of the act and got an adverse decision from Justice Tony Randerson QC on 1 October 2004.
The Waitakere council set up a swimming pool exemption committee, applied a $250 fee for applications and prosecuted pool owners whose pools were deemed by the council to be non-compliant. One opponent of the council’s course, Gary Osborne, set up the Pool Owners Action Group and wrote a book, Sitting on the fence. He & his wife were convicted in February for failing to fence their backyard pool to the minimum standard required by the act and were fined $3200 this month.
The new draft standard has been developed by a committee of representatives from a cross-section of organisations, including water safety & child safety organisations, Plunket, pool & spa manufacturers, councils, architects, designers, Branz Ltd (the Building Research Association of NZ) and the Department of Building & Housing.
Mr Godfrey said the committee sought to address the lack of clarity and other outstanding issues in the act, which didn’t give clear guidelines on compliance issues or how a pool beside a house can use modern safety designs that are available.
Mr Robertson said current rules & conditions in the Fencing of Swimming Pools Act conflicted with those in the Building Act, making enforcement extremely difficult for local bodies. Enforcement policies & practices consequently varied from council to council.
He said the North Shore council put pool inspections on hold, but resumed them last year when the Department of Internal Affairs published its own interim guidelines. He said the new standard would provide a permanent solution.
Mr Robertson said the new standard was realistic, workable & fair and largely reflected the position already being taken by the Shore council. “Not a lot will change for North Shore City pool owners,” he said.
Website: Standards NZ
Attribution: Standards & North Shore City Council releases, Osborne files & report on proceedings, story written by Bob Dey for this website.