Tougher rules around pool fences wanted by group

By Genevieve Helliwell

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The country's water safety advocacy group is calling for tougher rules around pool fencing to reduce the number of toddler drownings, following an increase of portable pools and spa pools.

Water Safety New Zealand chief executive Matt Claridge told the Bay of Plenty Times there was a lack of enforcement by councils against people who flouted the pool fencing rules, and said rewriting the law to put New Zealand in line with Australian standards would stop pre-schoolers drowning in home pools.

The Fencing of Swimming Pools Act 1987 was confusing and could be interpreted differently by each territorial local authority, he said.

"And when it is confusing the drowning risk increases," Mr Claridge said.

The proposed changes involve reducing the minimum depth of a pool from 400mm to 300mm, clearly define the pool area and limit what activities can be done around a pool, and seeing greater accountability and enforcement by councils, particularly around spa pools and portable pools.

"There are so many portable pools and spa pools these days that something needs to be done and if we don't do anything the drowning numbers will go up again."

Three toddlers drowned in home pools last year down from 11 in 2011.

A law change was extremely important in the Bay of Plenty where water was a large part of the lifestyle, he said.

"In the Bay of Plenty there are plenty of opportunities for recreation such as swimming, surfing, fishing and boating and with that there's a high risk of drowning."

Eight people drowned in Bay waters in 2012, down from 13 the previous year. Tauranga City Council said from January 1, 2000 to April 30, 2013, the council issued 911 consents for swimming and spa pools.

Rob Wickman, of the Tauranga City Council, said there was no register for complaints relating to swimming pools.

More than 50,000 households through New Zealand have pools.

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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