Pools not a babysitting service, parents told

RISKY BUSINESS: Splash Palace manager Pete Thompson urges parents not to dump their children at the pool all day during the school holiday.
RISKY BUSINESS: Splash Palace manager Pete Thompson urges parents not to dump their children at the pool all day during the school holiday.

Parents are leaving their children unattended at swimming pools, putting them at risk and sometimes leaving pool staff with no choice but to call police.

Splash Palace manager Pete Thompson said children of all ages were often left alone at the Invercargill pool complex during the holiday period.

"You can't leave children at the pool. My staff are not babysitters, they are lifesavers," he said.

He said some parents and caregivers dropped children at the pool at 8am and did not pick them up again until 6pm.

Some were not picked up until 9pm, he said.

"I imagine that childcare is too expensive and we are a much cheaper alternative."

Many pools in the country had the same problem, he said.

"Our stance is that any child under the age of 8 needs to be supervised at all times by a responsible person over the age of 16 years. A child under 5 needs a person over the age of 16 in the water within arm's reach at all times," he said.

Often, 7-year-olds were left with a 13-year-old sibling, which was not acceptable, he said.

If a child was considered under-age and alone, their parents would be contacted. If the parents could not be reached, the police would be called, he said.

He said parents needed to be aware of pool rules and the law about leaving a child under the age of 14 without suitable provision for their welfare. He said staff did not closely monitor the car park or who the children spoke to, because they were busy watching the water.

Children were at risk of talking to strangers or leaving the pool with them, he said.

Splash Palace introduced "Pool Alone Rules" information cards for parents last year that state: "You are your child's lifeguard, keep your child safe."

Gore Multisports Complex and Mataura pool manager Kim Peterson said the public had become more educated on the issue, so it had not been a big problem in Gore these holidays.

There had been issues with young children at the Mataura pool giving a false age but notices had been sent home to parents.

"We are definitely not a babysitting service. We believe in parents being with their children," she said.

Lakes Leisure communication and business development manager Rachelle Greene said the Frankton complex had trained lifeguards on duty at all times, but they could never replace having a parent present when it came to keeping children safe.

Sergeant Brock Davis, of Invercargill, said it was illegal for children to be left unattended in situations where they could be in danger.

Similar issues previously existed at the Invercargill Library but staff yesterday said good community and police support meant it was no longer a problem.

The Southland Times