New pool rules annoy parents

MICHELE ONG
Last updated 05:00 24/01/2014
Conrad Bolger
CHARLOTTE CURD/Fairfax NZ

FEELING BLUE: New rules make it difficult for Conrad Bolger, 4, to enjoy pool time with mum Claire and brother Huxley.

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New rules at New Plymouth's aquatic centre are leaving some parents high, dry and decidedly unhappy.

Following the near-drowning of a 4-year-old at the pools in October last year, the New Plymouth District Council has introduced strict ratios governing the number of children per caregiver.

At the time of the incident last year, one adult was supervising seven children.

The near-miss left the council asking how many children could an adult supervise when they were at the pools, recreation and events manager Ron Murray said.

But the new rules, brought in on January 13, have left some parents angry and confused.

Under the new regime, one-on-one supervision is required for under-2s, while it is a 1:2 ratio for children aged 2 to 5 years old, and 1:4 for children 5 to 7 years old.

This means, a parent with an 11-month-old and a 3-year-old child would need an additional adult.

A general pool safety reminder was put out on December 13 and changes were advertised via radio, newspapers and posters.

Mr Murray said it was about finding a "sensible ratio" for parents and caregivers, and the council had consulted with the New Zealand Recreation Association on the issue.

New Plymouth parent Claire Bolger was turned away from the pools last Friday .

Mrs Bolger had brought her two sons, Huxley, 18 months, and Conrad, 4, along with friend Katie, 5, for a swim.

But she was told she needed three adults for that number of children and was refused entry.

Mrs Bolger said she was not properly informed of the changes, even though she was at the pools the day before the rules took effect.

Mrs Bolger said she and Huxley usually came along for Conrad's swimming lessons and the trio would have a swim in the pools after classes.

"But we can't do that any more because I'll need another adult," she said.

Single parents would bear the brunt of the new ruling, Mrs Bolger said.

Annoyed users have also voiced their frustration on the council's Facebook page.

Jenny Adams, of New Plymouth, wrote that it was an "even more stupid" decision by the council than to remove the rubbish bins at Mt Bryan Domain.

"I have four children so I'll now have to find two extra adults to come with me just to be allowed in, absolutely ridiculous," Ms Adams said.

"Bell Block pools, looks like there'll be a lot more business coming your way."

Fay Bailey, also of New Plymouth, found the new regulations "pretty harsh".

"I have a 9-month-old, and 4 and 6-year-old, and reading this means I can't take them to a pool," she said.

Kirsty Riddell said she was almost turned away when she took her two children, a 20-month-old and a 3-year-old, for a swim.

"But a friend came to the rescue," she said.

"How many people are able to find an extra adult or two to come and supervise at the pool?"

Ms Riddell wants the council to have another look at its regulations. She is concerned the new ratios can be restricting for solo parents and those with partners who are away for a significant amount of time.

Mr Murray said he regretted the inconvenience the new rules had caused. "But it's about child safety and trying to keep the child as safe as they can be in the pools," he said.

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"It was difficult decision but we cannot ignore the incident."

In Mrs Bolger's case, she would need two adults to supervise her three accompanying children.

Mr Murray said it was about preventing drownings.

"It's not about political correctness, it's about safety and following industry standards," he said.

The council would conduct a review once more knowledge was gained of the effect of the introduction of the ratio policy.

"No two pools will have the same ratios as no two pools are the same," Mr Murray said.

"This is why there is no set national standard at present."

SAFETY RATIOS

New Plymouth District Council new child safety ratios.

Under 2 years: 1 adult to 1 child.

2-5 years: 1 adult to 2 children.

5-7 years: 1 adult to 4 children.

- Taranaki Daily News

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