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Fencing of Home Swimming Pools

8 October 2004

Fencing of Home Swimming Pools

Home pool owners in Waitakere and indeed New Zealand will welcome the ruling from Justice Randerson on Friday 1 October 2004 regarding the immediate pool area. A rational ruling that allows for the inclusion of a barbecue area and entertainment furniture within the fenced area.

Although there is clarity over what may or may not be included within the fenced area, the determination of what sized area is permissible will rest with local authorities.

The ruling highlights the necessity for adult supervision of children around water, and this must be constant and means a responsible adult keeping young children in their care within sight and reach.

Having a swimming pool at home is a choice and for most a privilege. The recent New Zealand Herald editorial of 5 October 2004 that uses comparisons made with other water hazards such as the beach, rivers, lakes and public jetties are misleading. Obviously the editor did little research into the environments involved in claiming the lives of pre-schoolers.

20 pre-school children drowned in home pools over the five-year period 1 January 1999 till 31 December 2003, an average of four per year. A further three have drowned in inflatable or paddling pools. These tragedies continue to occur despite an Act being in place to safeguard against home pool drownings. Prior to the Act coming into effect an average of 10 pre-schoolers drowned in home pools.

Alan Muir, Executive Director of Water Safety New Zealand states "there is a misconception amongst parents that because they are at home, their child is safe from hazards. Well this couldn't be further from the truth, as statistics point out home pools contribute four times as many drownings amongst pre-schoolers as any other sites beyond the home."

"The recent New Zealand Herald editorial suggested that anyone falling into a swimming pool stands a good chance of survival. This type of uneducated reporting is absolutely misleading. For example, there quite simply are very few two year olds in New Zealand who could comfortably make their way to the side of a pool. That is after they have fallen in, not taken a preparatory breath, gotten over the fright and gasp reflex associated with cold water. Then if they still haven't swallowed water, they are now fighting the burden of wet clothes which have tripled in weight and have to turn and make their way to the side of the pool, pull themselves up just for a breath, then scale the pool wall."

The right of owners to enjoy an aesthetically pleasing garden or pool surrounds cannot be placed above the value of human lives. The right of children to protection from reasonable risk and hazards is unquestionable. Drowning is one of the major causes of accidental death in New Zealand's pre-school children. The fact is that home swimming pools present the greatest risk of all water hazards to pre-school children.


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