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Insufficient Fences May Lead To Prosecution

1 March 2001

Auckland City is assisting Waiheke homeowners to ensure that all swimming and spa pools and their surrounding fences comply with the law.

Under the Fencing of Swimming Pools Act 1987, all pools must meet certain requirements and the Council intends to inspect all the 8500 known pools in Auckland City by June 2001, including those on the island.

A team of swimming pool inspectors is currently visiting every property in Auckland City that has a pool, to check they are fenced in compliance with the Act. If additional work needs to be carried out, owners are notified and the Council rechecks for compliance.

The Council makes available to homeowners a free ‘lifesaver information kit’ which contains a variety of information about compliance, including a 30-point pool fencing checklist. Further information is available on the Council’s website http://www.akcity.govt.nz

Bill Cartwright, of Auckland City Environments, says: “The law governing the safety of swimming pool fencing is not a by-law, but rather an Act of Parliament. While Auckland City Council is not the instigator of the law, it is our responsibility to ensure that swimming pool owners comply with it. Many people are simply unaware that should a child drown in their pool, they can be charged with manslaughter if their pool doesn’t meet the legal standards,” he adds.

There has been ongoing concern and debate about the desirability and method of fencing swimming pools for many years, including how this is enforced and the roles and responsibilities of pool owners and the Council. The Act makes it clear that issues such as aesthetics, or the fact that children do not live on the property, are not acceptable reasons for lack of pool fencing. The courts have taken strong lines against those who refuse to co-operate and have given clear direction on responsibilities of local authorities to enforce the Act.

Should the Council’s requirements to bring the fence up to standard not be met, the owner may face prosecution in the District Court. This could result in a fine and an order to drain the pool. Council site files also record the non-compliance, which could affect the future sale of the property.

Water Safety NZ statistics show that at least five New Zealand children under six years old drown in home swimming and spa pools each year. For every child who drowns, there are at least nine others involved in serious near-drowning accidents. Such accidents can leave children with permanent, moderate-to-severe brain damage. Most of these are in pools that did not comply with the Act at the time of drowning. This means that either pools were not fenced adequately or that gates were not self-closing and latching.

These figures are among the highest in the developed world. Young children do not understand the dangers and can drown in less than two minutes.


For further advice, or a copy of the ‘information kit’, contact:
Auckland City Environments
Vivian Rosoman (pool fencing administrator), tel: 353 9143.

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