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Pool Inspections To Resume With New Guidelines

Pool Inspections To Resume Following New Guidelines

May 13, 2005

New national guidelines on the fencing of swimming pools have allowed North Shore City Council to resume hundreds of pool assessments put 'on hold' over the past 12 months.

The updated guidelines have been produced by the Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) in response to growing pressure for clarification of the laws governing the fencing of pools.

A 'declaratory ruling' late last year on pool fencing legislation by Justice Tony Randerson labelled the current situation as one of "undesirable uncertainty".

As it stands, rules and conditions contained in the Fencing of Swimming Pools Act conflict with others in the Building Act, making applying the law difficult and contentious, says the council's environmental protection team leader, Warwick Robertson.

"Local authorities throughout the country, including North Shore City, have been calling for the Government to change the legislation, but this could still be years away."

As an interim solution, the DIA has amended its Guidelines for Territorial Authorities on The Fencing of Swimming Pools Act 1987. These now establish clear grounds for exemptions to the Act, and were agreed upon after extensive consultation with affected groups, including local authorities.

The regular cost of an exemption is currently $155, but this is likely to increase to $250 from July 1.

The guidelines address the areas of greatest ambiguity, namely what constitutes the "immediate pool area"; what activities can take place within it; and what level of access should be allowed directly onto the pool area.

Mr Robertson says hundreds of pool inspections have been put on hold owing to the legal ambiguity surrounding pool fencing. Only cases where an obvious safety risk existed were dealt with at the time.

"We will resume by reviewing the assessments we've already started, and then move on to a systematic checking of all pools in the city," he says.

The council has set itself the target of inspecting all the city's pools on a three-yearly cycle. With the rules clarified, and recent improvements in resourcing, Mr Robertson is confident this can be achieved.

Pool owners will be given notice of a scheduled inspection and can attend if they wish. Those unsure of the status of their pool can request a consultative inspection, for a small fee.

"Many pool owners will not have had their pools inspected for several years," says Mr Robertson.

Along with the resumption of the pool inspection programme, the council will from next month (June) be targeting portable spa pools. Thousands of the 'above ground' variety of spa pool are believed to have been installed in North Shore City without the necessary consents.

Owners will be urged to make their pools legal and those doing so during a month-long amnesty period will be charged a substantially reduced processing fee. Information regarding the spa pool amnesty will be posted on the council's website at www.northshorecity.govt.nz


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