Archive | Pool safety

New pool barrier rules in force

The Building (Pools) Amendment Act 2016 came into effect on 1 January, repealing the Fencing of Swimming Pools Act 1987 and including new pool safety provisions in the Building Act 2004.

Parliament passed the new bill on 20 October.

Key changes include:

  • a new requirement for mandatory 3-yearly inspections of swimming pools
  • allowing safety covers to be used as barriers for spa pools & hot tubs, and
  • introducing additional enforcement tools for councils, including notices to fix.

The amendment act creates new Building Code clause F9, on restricting access to residential pools by children under 5. The Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment closed consultation on new acceptable solutions for clause F9 on 16 December. Manufacturers & retailers of pool products (spa pools, hot tubs & portable pools) will be required to supply notices with these products. Consultation on the form of the notice closed on 21 October. The ministry is considering the feedback.

Links:
Clause F9, Restricting access to residential pools
Review of fencing of swimming pools

Attribution: New act & MBIE releases.

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Feedback sought on new pool alternative solutions

The Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment is seeking feedback on proposed new acceptable solutions to support changes to residential pool barrier requirements made by the Building (Pools) Amendment Act 2016. Consultation closes on Friday 16 December.

The amendment act repeals the Fencing of Swimming Pools Act 1987 and includes pool safety provisions under the Building Act 2004. It also creates new building code clause F9, which relates to residential pool barriers. Changes under the amendment act take effect from 1 January 2017.

The 2 new acceptable solutions are F9/AS1 Barriers for residential pools and F9/AS2 Covers for small heated pools.

The existing building code clause F4 requires swimming pools to have barriers that restrict access by young children. The schedule to the Fencing of Swimming Pools Act is an acceptable solution for clause F4. Proposed AS1 will largely reflect the schedule to that act.

The ministry said the main differences between the existing & proposed acceptable solutions relate to:

  • safety covers for spas & hot tubs – the amendment act provides that a safety cover can be used as a barrier. The proposed acceptable solutions contain specifications for safety covers
  • door alarms – the amendment act provides for door alarms to be used to help ensure doors are kept closed. The proposed acceptable solutions contain specifications for door alarms
  • boundary fences – acceptable solutions are proposed for boundary fences so, if the fence is high enough, owners will not need to ensure the other side of the fence remains clear
  • doors that open toward a pool area – the proposed acceptable solutions would make doors that open towards a pool area acceptable if the door closer is strong enough to restrict access by a young child.

Links: MBIE consultations
Building (Pools) Amendment Act 2016

Attribution: Ministry release.

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Smith introduces less prescriptive pool fencing law

A Building (Pools) Amendment Bill was introduced into Parliament on Wednesday to replace the Fencing of Swimming Pools Act 1987.

Building & Housing Minister Nick Smith said it would apply a more consistent & practical approach to protecting children from drowning: “The law on fencing swimming pools needs updating & improving to make it more practical & effective. The current law is excessively prescriptive, with inconsistent & cumbersome requirements that contribute little to children’s safety. These changes will reduce the bureaucracy & compliance costs of the current regime, while also saving more lives by ensuring more consistent compliance.”

The 6 key changes are:

  • Spa pools & hot tubs with child-resistant covers will not have to be separately fenced
  • 5-yearly inspections of pools will be required consistently everywhere, whereas some councils now require 3-yearly inspections and others require none
  • Requiring retailers & manufacturers to inform buyers of their obligations under the act when they buy pools to ensure children’s access is restricted
  • Clarifying that garden ponds & stormwater retention ponds don’t need to meet the swimming pool fencing requirements, noting differing interpretations currently by councils
  • Moving to performance-based standards in the Building Code to specify fencing requirements, rather than current duplicate & inconsistent requirements, and
  • Introducing a graduated enforcement regime with infringement notices as the preferred tool for compliance, and court prosecutions only in serious breaches.

“The Fencing of Swimming Pools Act 1987 has been successful in reducing child fatalities in pool accidents, from about 10/year to 3/year, but it has also been a source of frustration for many councils & homeowners. These changes are expected to improve safety by further reducing drownings by 6/decade, while also reducing compliance costs by $17 million.

“This bill is a refinement on proposed changes announced in 2013. It was proposed then to reduce the depth for triggering fencing requirements from 400mm to 300mm, but this has now been dropped. The other change is that rather than requiring inspections of pools at least every 5 years, the bill standardises the inspection regime as 5-yearly.

“The change to incorporate fencing requirements for swimming pools into the Building Act is to provide for simpler compliance & better enforcement. We also want a performance-based approach rather than a prescriptive approach to keeping young children safe from pools.”

Attribution: Ministerial release.

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Standards NZ issues new pool barrier standard

Published 27 November 2006


Standards NZ issued its new standard on safety barriers & fences around swimming pools, spas & hot tubs on Friday, NZS 8500:2006.


Standards NZ said the new pool barrier standard “assists people to avoid a swimming pool-related drowning by presenting various options designed to deny, delay or detect unsupervised entry to the swimming-pool area. Options for the location of effective safety barriers that will restrict the access of young children to swimming pools are provided, and requirements for the design, construction & performance of fences, gates, retaining walls & door sets intended to form a barrier to restrict access of young children to swimming pools are specified.


“This standard is intended to become a compliance document under the Building Code for new pools and to be used by territorial authorities in developing safe solutions for existing pools.”


Website: Standards NZ


 


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Attribution: Standards NZ release, story written by Bob Dey for this website.

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Pool fencing standard out for public comment

Published 20 June 2006


Standards New Zealand has issued the new standard on swimming pool fencing for public comment. The submissions period opened on 19 June and closes on Friday 11 August.



“The intention in developing the standard is that Parliament will be able to consider using it as a replacement for the schedule in the Fencing of Swimming Pool Act 1987, by way of an amendment to the act,” Standards development chairman Ian Godfrey said. Mr Godfrey is also a senior building advisor at Manukau City Council.


“The standard will provide clear guidance for the design & construction of safety barriers to restrict young children’s access to swimming pools. The fencing of swimming pools is addressed in both the Fencing of Swimming Pools Act and the Building Code. While both documents are well intentioned, industry is seeking clearer directions on the obligations which need to be met by territorial authorities & pool owners for ongoing compliance,” Mr Godfrey said.


North Shore City Council’s environmental protection team leader, Warwick Robertson, said a single unambiguous set of rules for pool fencing was long overdue: “We’ve all been struggling with an unworkable situation for many years.”


Waitakere City Council asked the High Court for a declaratory judgment on the correct interpretation of the act and got an adverse decision from Justice Tony Randerson QC on 1 October 2004.


The Waitakere council set up a swimming pool exemption committee, applied a $250 fee for applications and prosecuted pool owners whose pools were deemed by the council to be non-compliant. One opponent of the council’s course, Gary Osborne, set up the Pool Owners Action Group and wrote a book, Sitting on the fence. He & his wife were convicted in February for failing to fence their backyard pool to the minimum standard required by the act and were fined $3200 this month.


The new draft standard has been developed by a committee of representatives from a cross-section of organisations, including water safety & child safety organisations, Plunket, pool & spa manufacturers, councils, architects, designers, Branz Ltd (the Building Research Association of NZ) and the Department of Building & Housing.


Mr Godfrey said the committee sought to address the lack of clarity and other outstanding issues in the act,  which didn’t give clear guidelines on compliance issues or how a pool beside a house can use modern safety designs that are available.


Mr Robertson said current rules & conditions in the Fencing of Swimming Pools Act conflicted with those in the Building Act, making enforcement extremely difficult for local bodies. Enforcement policies & practices consequently varied from council to council.


He said the North Shore council put pool inspections on hold, but resumed them last year when the Department of Internal Affairs published its own interim guidelines. He said the new standard would provide a permanent solution.


Mr Robertson said the new standard was realistic, workable & fair and largely reflected the position already being taken by the Shore council. “Not a lot will change for North Shore City pool owners,” he said.


Website: Standards NZ


Draft standard


 


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Attribution: Standards & North Shore City Council releases, Osborne files & report on proceedings, story written by Bob Dey for this website.

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Judge gets lost on way to Osborne’s pool fence hearing

Published 8 December 2005


Waitakere campaigner Gary Osborne could have spent his morning more usefully yesterday lounging around his pool or tending to the new requirements the city council wants him to make good around it.



Instead, he, his wife & a band of supporters went to the Henderson District Court to defend a council prosecution for failing to meet pool fencing requirements. Witnesses took the day off work to appear.


Unfortunately the court couldn’t supply a judge. And it took an hour deciding that, then arranging for the case to be adjourned (to Friday 3 February 2006).


The court clerk said the judge who was supposed to be hearing the case had had to go elsewhere, it seemed unexpectedly, and the court couldn’t supply another judge.


The council has threatened scores of its citizens with prosecution over pool fencing in the wake of Justice Tony Randerson’s failure to give the council the interpretation of the Fencing of Swimming Pools Act it wanted in a judicial review in 2004.


The council set up a swimming pool exemption committee, decided to lobby the Government to reform or repeal the act, and decided to chair a regional working party to get a regional approach to interpreting & implementing the current act.


Mr Osborne wouldn’t take up the exemption option, has questioned what the council has been trying to do, set up the Pool Owners Action Group and wrote a book, Sitting on the fence, a brief history of the pool-fencing law and the saga as it has been played out in Waitakere.


Earlier story:


7 March 2005: Osborne produces book on pool fencing saga


2 February 2005: Waitakere pool fencing charges back in court


30 July 2004: Local bodies support pool fencing act rewrite


 


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Osborne produces book on pool fencing saga

Published: 7 March 2005


Longtime campaigner Gary Osborne has produced a 133-page book about his battle with Waitakere City Council over the fencing of his pool – and those of hundreds of others who have faced prosecution by the council.



Mr Osborne’s book, Sitting on the fence, runs a brief history of the pool-fencing law and the saga as it has been played out in Waitakere.


After a respite while Justice Randerson produced his declaratory judgment arising from a High Court hearing in August 2004 on the question of what is the immediate pool area, the Waitakere council has summonsed several hundred pool owners to district court appointments, although most of those callovers have been canned at the last minute.


Mr Osborne argues in his book that the council is trying to impose isolation pool fencing (with nothing else inside the fence), although the Fencing of Swimming Pools Act doesn’t require that.


Justice Randerson rejected the council view that an entertainment area couldn’t be situated inside the pool fence.


The council has set up a pool fencing exemption committee and has withdrawn many of its prosecutions. However, more court callovers are listed.




Websites: Pool Owners Action Group


Waitakere City Council


Thomas & Co website, Randerson judgment


 


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Waitakere pool fencing charges back in court

Published: 2 February 2005


155 Waitakere pool owners will be back in court over the next 7 weeks for a brief callover appearance, so a date can be set for hearing the city council’s action against them over allegedly inadequate pool fencing.



The Waitakere District Court callover dates are 7 & 21 February & March, all Mondays.


The council asked the High Court for a declaratory judgment on the correct interpretation of the Fencing of Swimming Pools Act and got a decision from Justice Tony Randerson QC on 1 October 2004.


In a report to the 24 November council meeting legal services manager Denis Sheard said Justice Randerson “refused to make the declarations which the council had sought in the proceedings but reserved leave to the council to apply for any formal declarations that it may require within 4 weeks of the decision. An application was filed with the court seeking further time until 31 January 2005 to clarify what declarations, if any, might be required.”


The council accepted Mr Sheard’s recommendation to set up a swimming pool exemption committee (the chairman & other members of the council’s hearings committee).


It also agreed to charge a $250 fee (including gst) for applications for exemption from the Fencing of Swimming Pools Act.


After discussing the judgment, the council decided to lobby the Government to reform or repeal the act, and to chair a regional working party to get a regional approach to interpreting & implementing the current act.


Meanwhile, the council is pursuing its action against recalcitrant pool owners.



Websites:


Waitakere City Council


Council pool regulations page


Council minute on pools update, 24 November 2004


Randerson judgment on Thomas & Co website


 


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Local bodies support pool fencing act rewrite

Delegates to the Local Government Association conference in Auckland this week supported a North Shore City Council proposal to get the Fencing of Swimming Pools Act rewritten.


The move comes just head of a High Court hearing on a controversial Waitakere case, from which a declaratory judgment is expected.


North Shore mayor George Wood said the 1987 act was confusing and clearer rules were needed to help pool owners, designers, builders, industry groups & local bodies.


“The legislation has proved controversial & difficult to enforce since its inception. Parts of it are unclear and its current association with the Building Act is confusing,” Mr Wood said.


Areas he wants clarified include:

the legitimacy of lockable spa pool covers
the definition of the immediate pool area
the situation where doors from the house directly enter the pool area, and
the interaction between this act, the Building Code & the Building Act.

“When the act was introduced, most councils believed its primary aim was preventing young children gaining access to the pool from outside the property,” Mr Wood said.


2 recent determinations from the Building Industry Authority have had a significant impact on pool fencing approvals & their interpretation. The determinations are binding decisions on technical matters of doubt or dispute about compliance with the Building Code.


The new interpretations mean lockable spa covers are no longer acceptable as an alternative to compliant pool fencing, and it’s no longer acceptable to have doors from the house entering the pool area unless it is a confined area and access is restricted.


“Due to the new BIA interpretations, local authorities are now left to decipher the existing legislation – and they are doing so in different ways. The intent of the changes is to keep young children safe, but creates confusion for people who previously complied and now find they don’t,” he said.


North Shore City has an estimated 5200 homes with pools, and a large proportion would no longer meet the new requirement as their situations might no longer meet the interpretation of the immediate pool area as outlined in the BIA determination.


“There are 2 Acts of Parliament that deal with pools: the Fencing of Swimming Pools Act and the Building Act. This has caused confusion & frustration for the local authorities who are required to enforce the rules and pool owners who need to follow them,” Mr Wood said.


A regional group of council officers has been working to seek clarity from the Government on pool fencing rules & regulations.


North Shore City Council would like responsibility for the Fencing of Swimming Pools Act move from the Internal Affairs Department to the proposed new Building & Housing Department.

And, like all other councils, North Shore City is also keenly awaiting the High Court’s ruling on what is meant by the “immediate pool area”. The court will consider a controversial Waitakere pool fencing case next week and will make declaratory judgment.

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