Pool fence law flouted

DANIEL ADAMS
Last updated 05:00 23/01/2013
Marita Scott
FAIRFAX NZ
SPLISH, SPLASH: Marita Scott keeps an eye on her daughters Ruby, left, and Aria, in a moveable backyard pool.

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Thousands of Waikato families are breaking the law - and potentially endangering their childrens' lives - by failing to fence temporary swimming pools.

Now Water Safety New Zealand wants to pull the plug on some pools to mitigate what it says is widespread flouting of pool fencing legislation.

Most of the pools fall within the legal definition of a swimming pool and must be fenced to prevent access by children and accidental drowning.

The organisation is pushing for new standards that would cull all but the biggest and smallest pools - less than 40 centimetres deep, or higher than 1.2 metres - from the market, and limit the time for which they can be erected.

Chief executive Matt Claridge said though only a few drownings had been recorded in the pools - two or three in the past decade - they were a risk to toddlers, who made up 10 per cent of drownings.

He said a review of the law for the fencing of pools, which is under way and due for further public consultation later this year, was much needed as the legislation, enacted in 1987, preceded the explosion in popularity of the cheap backyard pools.

"I try to be pragmatic, but in reality no-one is going to fence them. These pools are going to continue to come off the boat from China, get slapped down in the middle of [the shops] and then they're gone two days later."

Internal Affairs' advice to local councils on enforcement says that though inflatable and portable pools where the water depth is less than 40cm are exempt, supervision of their use by a responsible person is essential. It also says they should be emptied and stored when not in use.

If a pool meeting the criteria under the act is not fenced a council can make you empty the pool and/or fine you up to $500 for noncompliance, and up to $50 a day for continued noncompliance.

Government landlord Housing New Zealand banned the pools from its 69,000 rental properties some years ago because of the risks they posed.

The pools are increasingly sophisticated, with filters, pool covers and even saltwater cleaning systems despite their supposedly temporary purpose.

A Housing New Zealand spokesperson said unfenced swimming pools posed a safety risk to tenants, as well as neighbouring children and visitors.

Mr Claridge said it was about finding some reasonable middle ground.

"They're out there, they're available; parents need to be absolutely aware of the risk they present, and limit the time they have them up for," he said.

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A Hamilton City Council spokeswoman said they took a proactive approach, with officers regularly visiting inflatable pool retailers to brief them on the regulations and legal requirements users must adhere to.

"Part of that process is to encourage retailers to ensure their customers are informed of their obligations," said spokeswoman Susan Pepperell.

The number of swimming pools consented by the city council has almost halved over the past five years, from 52 in 2008 down to 27 last year.

Pool Builders Waikato managing director John McLaughlin said he had seen the impact of the portable pools on his business, which typically builds 20 to 25 pools each year in the Waikato, and renovates more.

- Waikato Times

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