Property Law
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Parliament has redrawn the line in the sand when it comes to safety around swimming pools. The new Building (Pools) Amendment Act 2016 came into force on 1 January 2017 and aims to ensure increased safety around swimming pools while taking a more pragmatic approach.

Four main changes have been introduced under the legislation:

  • Residential swimming pools must be inspected every three years. 
  • Safety covers are able to be used as barriers for spa pools and hot tubs.
  • Councils will have better tools to enforce pool barrier requirements, including notices to fix and infringement notices.
  • Manufacturers of pools must ensure that pools supplied include a notice approved by Council, summarising the responsibilities of pool owners, operators and occupiers.

Spa pools 
Spa pool owners can celebrate as they will not be required to fence their heated spa pool or hot tub if:

  • The total water surface area is 5m2 or less;
  • The top surface of the spa pool is at least 760mm off the ground/decking;
  • The walls of the spa pool are non-climbable;
  • The spa pool has a cover that:
  • restricts the entry of children when closed (e.g. lockable lid);
  • is able to withstand a reasonable foreseeable load;
  • is able to readily be returned to the closed position; and
  • has signage indicating its child safety features.

Obviously, the cover will need to be closed and locked  when the spa pool or hot tub is not in use. 

Inspections
Council inspection staff will keep a closer eye on pool safety. Pools are now to be inspected every three years instead of five. This is great news for the safety of young children in the Rotorua district. With 1644 pools on Rotorua Lakes Council’s pool register, qualified pool inspectors will be kept busy.  

What if I don’t comply? 
Officers may now issue pool owners with a “notice to fix”, requiring compliance with the Act. Failure to comply with such notices can now result in fines of up to $5,000.
Swimming pools (including paddling pools!)

Residential swimming pools (“pools”) built before 1 January 2017 that were compliant with the fencing requirements of the old legislation (Schedule of the Fencing of Swimming Pools Act 1987) will continue to be compliant under the saving provisions of the new Act. 

For pools built after 1 January 2017, the new Act offers increased options and guidance on fencing requirements. 

Under the new Act, Pools with a maximum depth of water of 400mm or more that are filled or partly filled with water must have physical barriers that restrict access to the pool or the immediate pool area by unsupervised young children (ie. under 5 years of age). Inflatable padding pools may therefore require fencing.
  
In certain circumstances, buildings and boundary fences can be used are barriers if the strict criteria detailed under the new Act is met.  Gates and doors must also meet the strict criteria detailed under the new Act.  

The pool’s fencing and potentially the pool itself will require building consent prior to construction - even if the pool is to be erected for a short period each season. 

The Government is set to publish new Acceptable Solutions in April 2017 for compliance of residential pool barriers under the new Act so watch this space for further guidance.