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Pool fencing: Inaccurate Statistics

Pool fencing: Inaccurate Statistics

In relation to the Fencing of Swimming Pools Act 1987, on 2 June 2004, in an advertisement in the Aucklander entitled "swimming pool fences save lives", Waitakere City Council made the claim, "Every year, around six children drown in home swimming pools or spas."

On 4 June, I rang the Council to find out who was responsible for the advertisement. I was told to deal solely with Denis Sheard, Legal Services Manager. I was told the person who had authorised the advertisement was not allowed to speak to me.

I wrote to all Councillors pointing out that 40 pre-school drownings for the whole of New Zealand over the last ten years represented an average of 4, not 6, and that was nationally, not just for Waitakere City.

On 5 June I emailed Denis Sheard asking for a copy of the material from which a figure of 6 had been deduced. The material he eventually provided me with actually stated "Each year around five children under the age of six...." I also emailed Alan Muir of Water Safety NZ asking for details of recent Waitakere drownings as Waitakere City Council does not keep its own statistics.

On 6 June I wrote to the Advertising Standards Complaints Board.

On 8 June I emailed Alan Muir asking what was the most recent year in which a Waitakere City pre-school drowning occurred in a private swimming pool or spa pool "as a result of non-compliant fencing." That same day I rang Rob Francis of the Aucklander who said they did not accept responsibility for publication of the material in the advertisement.

On 14 June I sent a reminder to Alan Muir prompting a response to my email of 8 June.

On 16 June Alan Muir responded without answering my question. I pushed for a specific answer and that same day received a brief reply "Apologies, March 2001."

On 18 June I rang Alan Muir but he refused to speak to me. I contested the accuracy of his email reply.

On 19 June the PoolSafe website changed its statement from 6 drownings per year to 4.

On 23 June I received a new reply from Alan Muir. "Nov 97. Child found in pool partly under pool cover. The pool did not comply with the requirements of the Act."

On 29 June Denis Sheard informed me "As recently as 16 June I saw a draft communication from that body (Water Safety NZ) which contained a statement that there was on average of "six to seven" preschool deaths from drowning in domestic pools." He went on to say "Council does not think it makes any difference whether the number is "around four" or "around six."

I pressed Alan Muir for details of the circumstances behind Waitakere City drownings and during the second week of July received a document which, in relation to the 1997 drowning, stated: 25 Nov 1997 "Left in area by accident. Had been supervised and did not go through door when caregiver left immediate pool area.(Fenced but pool did not comply with the FOSP at the time of drowniings."

On 13 July the Advertising Standards Complaints Board advised me my complaint was not upheld. They said a copy of the Decision would be sent to me in "due course." To date I have not received it.

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