Spa pool owners welcome rule changes
A proposed law change that could relax the rules around spa pool fencing is being welcomed by some owners.
Building and Construction Minister Maurice Williamson recently announced changes to the 1987 Fencing of Swimming Pools Act which, if passed this year, should save more lives while "striking a balance between child safety and compliance costs".
The main changes will be clearer requirements for restricting access to swimming pools and requirements for councils to inspect them.
The reprieve for spa owners is that they would no longer need to fence their above-ground portable tub if it has a lockable lid.
It's estimated it would cost $350 million to ensure all spas in New Zealand are fenced and would do little to reduce the risk of drowning, a report by the Department of Building and Housing says.
Only nine children have drowned in spa pools in the last 20 years and almost none in the last decade, the report says.
The current law allows Auckland spa owners to apply to their local board for an exemption from fencing if their spa has a lockable lid and meets certain criteria.
The cost of the application is $435 and only 65 spas in the central Auckland area have the exemption.
Epsom resident Paul McCann has both a portable spa and a swimming pool. He is in the process of getting an exemption for his spa.
"Really the pool is the unsafest part and it's meeting all the standards. Anyone wanting to get in could climb the fence. The spa has a lockable cover."
He says the process of getting the exemption has been a hassle and he is now considering getting rid of the spa.
He wasn't fully aware of the fencing requirements when he purchased it. "They guy selling it to us said all we needed was a lockable lid and it was under a certain depth so we should be fine."
The new law will require those selling spa pools to make customers aware of the safety regulations.
It will also require councils to inspect swimming pools at least once every five years. They'll no longer have to routinely inspect spa pools that meet standards.
Auckland Council will be ahead of the game. It already aims to inspect the 2492 registered spas and 6887 pools in the central Auckland area once every three years, building WOF manager Wolfgang Nethe says.
The maximum court fine for not complying with the current law is $500.
"Unfortunately council has to prosecute pool owners for non-compliance with the law on a regular basis," Mr Nethe says.
Another proposed change is that portable pools with more than 30cm of water will need to be fenced. Currently only portable pools deeper than 40cm needed to be fenced.
Mr Williamson says some reports which suggest paddling pools would need to be fenced are inaccurate.
"What we're saying is if there's a pool that you're going to permanently leave up, then that needs to be fenced."