Fencing off hot pools 'huge task'

MIKE WATSON
Last updated 05:00 21/12/2012

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Fencing off all Rotorua's natural hot pools would be a hugely difficult task, an inquest into the death of a 10-year-old boy has been told.

Toromon Toromon, of Hamilton, slipped off a rock wall around an unfenced geothermal pool in Kuirau Park, Rotorua, on Boxing Day 2010. He could not climb out because of its steep sides.

He was pulled out by his 11-year-old brother and taken to Middlemore Hospital in Auckland with burns to 95 per cent of his body. He died four days later.

The temperature of the pool was 74.8 degrees Celsius, Detective Sergeant Tony Colby told the inquest in Rotorua yesterday.

Only moments before the accident, Toromon had been photographed with his family sitting around the pool. The family moved to another area close by, and Toromon and his brother went back to the pool on their own to have a closer look.

Mr Colby said there were no standard fencing regulations around natural hot pools, which are exempt from the rules surrounding swimming pools.

Councils, tourism operators and public agencies had their own policies to ensure public safety, Mr Colby said.

Standards ranged from child-proof fencing around the majority of hot pools at Kuirau Park, to minimal or no fencing along tracks and geothermal features.

Police could find no criminal liability of the part of Rotorua District Council as a result of the boy's death, he said.

The council's parks and recreation manager, Garry Page, said a 1.8-metre-high fence was built around the pool after Toromon's death, which was the eighth since the late 1980s from someone falling into a hot pool in the park.

Many of the deaths had been self-inflicted and Toromon's was the only child death recorded there, he said.

Kuirau Park was visited by 250,000 people every year, and that council had to keep a "fine balance" between providing access to the pools, and preventing accidents.

"There are thousands of natural features in the region and it would be very difficult to fence all of them off to the public."

Council had "beefed up" warning signs around the park and staff were vigilant in checking whether people were jumping over the fences, he said.

"If people are determined to go over a barrier they will, and it is a ongoing battle to prevent them."

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