Hamilton Pool owners may be billed for five-yearly inspections

Hamilton pool fences could soon have to be inspected by council staff every five years
PIERS FULLER

Hamilton pool fences could soon have to be inspected by council staff every five years

Pool owners could soon have to fork out to have their pools inspected every five years under proposed new legislation.

But water safety experts aren't convinced the changes will deliver safer pools.

Hamilton city councillors were this week briefed on proposed changes to safety legislation for private pools and spas currently being considered by Parliament.

The Buildings (Pools) Amendment Bill is being championed by Building and Housing Minister Dr Nick Smith and is intended to replace the Fencing of Swimming Pools Act.

Council staffer Phil Saunders said the proposed bill contained a number of key changes including compulsory five-yearly inspections of pools.

Pool retailers and manufacturers will also have to inform buyers of their obligations under the act.

Pool owners found to have seriously breached the act could face court prosecution. 

Spa pools and hot tubs with child resistant covers will not have to be separately fenced.

Spa pools will also not require a building consent.

Saunders said inspecting swimming pools every five years would come at a cost and recommended the council make a submission to the Local Government and Environment Committee asking for that cost to be recoverable.

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"Part of our submission recommendation will be that we should be able to charge a fee for that," Saunders said.

If Hamilton had 3000 pools, that would mean council staff would have to carry out 3000 inspections.

As it stood, the amendment bill was silent on who should absorb the cost, he told councillors.

Hamilton Mayor Julie Hardaker said the bill was another example of central government making a change without specifying who paid for the costs.

"I'm comfortable with the changes but cost flows and always the Government are silent on the costs," she said.

Saunders said the amendment bill also did not stipulate whether temporary pools required a building consent.

Speaking in September, Smith said the Fencing of Swimming Pools Act was "excessively prescriptive" and cumbersome.

The act had helped reduce child drownings in pools from about 10 a year to three.

However, the act had also been a source of frustration for pool owners and councils.

"These changes are expected to improve safety by further reducing drownings by six per decade, while also reducing compliance costs by $17m," Smith said.

Incorporating fencing requirements for swimming pools into the Building Act would make for simpler compliance and better enforcement, he said.

Matt Claridge, chief executive of Water Safety New Zealand, said the organisation had "big concerns" about the proposed changes and would make a submission.

Claridge didn't believe the changes would deliver the proposed child safety benefits and was seeking the views of other agencies such as Plunket and Safekids Aotearoa.

"We're right across this and this is big for us. At the moment we're still finalising our position but on the face of it we have a number of big concerns," he said.

People have until November 5 to make a submission to the Local Government and Environment Committee.

 - Stuff

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