A Building (Pools) Amendment Bill was introduced into Parliament on Wednesday to replace the Fencing of Swimming Pools Act 1987.
Building & Housing Minister Nick Smith said it would apply a more consistent & practical approach to protecting children from drowning: “The law on fencing swimming pools needs updating & improving to make it more practical & effective. The current law is excessively prescriptive, with inconsistent & cumbersome requirements that contribute little to children’s safety. These changes will reduce the bureaucracy & compliance costs of the current regime, while also saving more lives by ensuring more consistent compliance.”
The 6 key changes are:
- Spa pools & hot tubs with child-resistant covers will not have to be separately fenced
- 5-yearly inspections of pools will be required consistently everywhere, whereas some councils now require 3-yearly inspections and others require none
- Requiring retailers & manufacturers to inform buyers of their obligations under the act when they buy pools to ensure children’s access is restricted
- Clarifying that garden ponds & stormwater retention ponds don’t need to meet the swimming pool fencing requirements, noting differing interpretations currently by councils
- Moving to performance-based standards in the Building Code to specify fencing requirements, rather than current duplicate & inconsistent requirements, and
- Introducing a graduated enforcement regime with infringement notices as the preferred tool for compliance, and court prosecutions only in serious breaches.
“The Fencing of Swimming Pools Act 1987 has been successful in reducing child fatalities in pool accidents, from about 10/year to 3/year, but it has also been a source of frustration for many councils & homeowners. These changes are expected to improve safety by further reducing drownings by 6/decade, while also reducing compliance costs by $17 million.
“This bill is a refinement on proposed changes announced in 2013. It was proposed then to reduce the depth for triggering fencing requirements from 400mm to 300mm, but this has now been dropped. The other change is that rather than requiring inspections of pools at least every 5 years, the bill standardises the inspection regime as 5-yearly.
“The change to incorporate fencing requirements for swimming pools into the Building Act is to provide for simpler compliance & better enforcement. We also want a performance-based approach rather than a prescriptive approach to keeping young children safe from pools.”
Attribution: Ministerial release.