Boards make call on pools

MARYKE PENMAN
Last updated 08:17 22/05/2012

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Children's safety is being compromised now that local board members will be making the calls on pool fencing exemptions, Water Safety New Zealand chief executive Matt Claridge says.

And board members are said to be concerned about liability and their lack of experience in this area.

All private pool owners are required to fence their pools under the Fencing of Swimming Pools Act 1987.

Those with spa pools may apply for an exemption as long as they adhere to strict criteria.

The act states a territorial authority may grant that exemption so long as it would not significantly increase danger to young children.

Auckland Council has now delegated this authority to local board members.

Mr Claridge says it will lead to a compromise on children's safety. "It's fundamentally flawed," he says.

"As far as I'm concerned there should be absolutely no exemptions to pool fencing regulations and it is concerning that board members with no experience have the final say."

Elected board members now carry out site inspections in their area and make the final call on whether owners will have to comply.

This approach will promote inconsistency, Mr Claridge says. "What's decided by board members in Pakuranga could be very different from what's decided in Helensville."

Hibiscus and Bays Local Board members are calling for a change in legislation, requesting that trained council officers make the rulings instead.

Local board chairwoman Julia Parfitt says there is concern over the passing of liability and the lack of experience board members have in pool safety.

"Unfortunately that is the requirement. But at this stage, rather than refusing to go, we as a local board have decided we do not want to hinder residents who in good faith have requested an exemption," she says.

Ms Parfitt says the process has proven time consuming for the local board given the Hibiscus and Bays area is so spread out. So far the board has approved three exemptions from four recent site visits, including one for a spa pool in Mairangi Bay.

Elected board members were accompanied by a council officer but were only given advice, not a recommendation, Ms Parfitt says.

"We are very wary and concerned about the safety issues and so take twice as much time to consider all the criteria," she says.

The board has voiced their concerns, Ms Parfitt says and is now seeking legal advice.

"It is an unfortunate position to be put in, we don't have the technical skills, expertise or enough guidance to be doing this really."

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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