Child ratio backtrack at some pools

A policy U-turn means strict new adult to child ratios have been scrapped at all but one of the New Plymouth district's pools.

The ratios, which were brought in on January 13, no longer apply at pools in Oakura, Inglewood, Waitara and Fitzroy Beach, the New Plymouth District Council announced last week.

They will still apply at New Plymouth's Todd Energy Aquatic Centre until mid-February.

The ratios required one adult or caregiver for every child under two years, one adult or caregiver per two children aged two to five, and one adult or caregiver per four children aged five to eight.

The pools will now follow the "pool alone" provisions laid out by the ACC Poolsafe Quality Management Scheme.

This meant children under the age of eight must be actively supervised by a caregiver 16 years or over and children under the age of two must be within arm's reach of a caregiver 16 years and over at all times.

Parents looking after their children at the Fitzroy pool yesterday had mixed feelings about the ratio rules.

Natasha Pullen was at the pool with her three children aged 5, 7 and 10. Under the recently retracted rules she would still have been able to supervise her three kids on her own, but she thought the ratios were a bit unrealistic for solo parents who had children in different age brackets.

However, she said she could understand why the council would impose the strict ratios.

"Sometimes it's hard to watch the kids.

"I feel confident watching the older two, but my 5-year-old is over-confident, so I am always in the water with her," she said.

Shilayna McCabe was at the pool with her partner and their two children, aged 1 and 3.

She said she would not feel comfortable taking both kids to the pool by herself.

"I think it's a good idea, though I know there's a lot of people who think it's unfair."

Ms McCabe said there had been a lot of debate around the subject on the "Taranaki Mums and Dads" Facebook group.

Both women said some parents thought they could sit back and leave the lifeguards to watch their children, rather than actively supervising.

The stricter ratios still in place at the Aquatic Centre were introduced following the near-drowning of a 4-year-old there in October last year.

"The safety of everyone in our pool facilities is our paramount concern," Ron Murray, district council manager of recreation and events said.

Mr Murray said the council was confident the smaller district pools could be safely operated under the "pool alone" rules.

"However, the Todd Energy Aquatic Centre is obviously much larger and busier and we want to trial the new ratios there a bit longer before deciding whether they should continue or be amended in some way."

A week-long review of the Aquatic Centre ratios will begin on February 10 and will take into account staff and customer feedback.

Taranaki Daily News