New pool rules could backfire

LYN HUMPHREYS
Last updated 05:00 27/01/2014

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Water safety groups say they are watching New Plymouth's new pool rules amid fears they will put families off teaching kids to swim.

The district council has imposed a tougher ratio of children per adult after the near-drowning of a toddler last year at the aquatic centre.

Under the new rules, which are believed to be the toughest in the country, a family with a child under 12 months and a child under five years would require two adult supervisors at the pool.

The council move has met an angry backlash from parents.

Both Water Safety NZ and NZ Recreation Association said the effect of the strict rules would now be closely monitored.

They fear that the council's hard line could put parents off going to the pool with their children, resulting in a reduction in water safety skills.

Water Safety NZ head Matt Claridge, Wellington, said New Plymouth's new ratios exceed the minimum national standard.

"It might mean that fewer people visit the pool and that might be of concern," he said.

"What they have done is looked to minimise the risk of harm to small children. On the other side of the coin, that could affect parents taking their children to the pool.

"By exceeding the standard, have they gone too far?"

NZ Recreation Association chief executive Andrew Leslie said the New Plymouth council had now set a precedent which would be closely watched.

"We will be looking at whether it works and the pros and cons," Mr Leslie said.

The association ran the Pool Safe programme to which New Plymouth had signed up, he said.

The Pool Safe "pool alone" standard stated that children 8 or under should be actively supervised by their caregiver.

But it did not include a ratio of adult to child because of the variability of how competent different children are in the water.

It was left to each facility to implement their own ratios, Mr Leslie said.

As far as the association was aware, only New Plymouth had put the adult-child ratios in place.

Several parents spoken to at the aquatic centre had mixed feelings on the new ratios.

New Plymouth mother Rachel Schafer who has children aged 9, 7 and 6 and believes the ratios will make it tough for some parents.

But she is always aware of the danger of water, especially after a daughter disappeared under the waves at the beach recently.

"You've always got your eye on your children in the water."

Geoff Tattle on holiday from the Manawatu said the ratio was a great idea "but they have gone over the top".

The tough rules would penalise the good families who, like he and his wife, actively supervise their kids.

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He believed there were no rules at Manawatu's public pools and this was abused by parents who dropped off their kids and left.

- Taranaki Daily News

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