Adam is a political reporter for the New Zealand Herald.

Heat goes on pool owners under new law changes

Parents face fines if paddling pools with 30cm of water not fenced under proposed law
The new law will mean any pool where the water is more than 30cm deep - even portable and inflatable - will need to be fenced off.
The new law will mean any pool where the water is more than 30cm deep - even portable and inflatable - will need to be fenced off.

Parents with inflatable paddling pools could face $500 fines if they ignore council orders to fence them off or empty them after use under proposed rules to be unveiled today.

Building and Construction Minister Maurice Williamson will announce changes to the 1987 Fencing of Swimming Pools Act which, if passed next year, will introduce a new enforcement regime, including $500 fines for those who don't fence off their pools properly.

The new law will mean any pool where the water is more than 30cm deep - even portable and inflatable - will need to be fenced off if they are left up permanently.

Under current laws, pools deeper than 40cm have to be fenced, but officials say the requirements have not been clear and are not happening in many cases.

Parents the Herald spoke to yesterday had mixed views about the proposed changes, with several supporting anything that reduced the risk of drowning.

Many others described them as "impracticable" and "unrealistic".

Lauren Cooper, 27, said she was "in two minds because kids can drown in 30cm of water" but that the possibility of having to put fences up around blow-up paddling pools was "a little bit ridiculous".

"It takes away from the whole concept of pools in backyards," she said.

Officials estimate there are about 60,000 portable pools that will be affected. The Government hopes the changes will encourage parents to adopt "best practice" and empty and store portable pools after each use.

Councils will not have to locate and inspect portable pools but will have powers to inspect properties and give warnings and infringement notices carrying a $500 fine to "persistent offenders".

The changes will also clarify rules for fencing off larger pools, which Mr Williamson said would save the lives of six children every decade.

About 40 per cent of drownings of young children in domestic swimming pools over the last 20 years involved gates or doors left open.

Pool owners cannot be convicted under the Fencing of Swimming Pools Act if a child drowns in a pool which is not adequately fenced off, but non-compliance with the act is a factor considered by courts when they bring other charges such as manslaughter or criminal nuisance.

Changes for spa pools mean owners will not have to fence them off if the pool lid is child-resistant.

Water Safety NZ chief executive Matt Claridge said the proposed new law was "a big step in the right direction". But he wanted to see paddling and other portable pools of between 30cm and 1.2m depth withdrawn from sale altogether.

The current legislation requires councils to inspect pools and their fencing but does not make the extent of those obligations clear. As a result, about 20 per cent of pools in New Zealand are not inspected.

The new law will require pools to be inspected every five years. While that will mean some councils have to step up their inspections, others including Auckland Council already inspect pools every three years. Council inspectors will be able to issue warnings and, where those are ignored, $500 infringement notices.

Proposed law changes

• Pools with water deeper than 30cm must be fenced. Currently pools with water deeper than 40cm must be fenced.

• All pools will need to be inspected every five years and councils will be able to issue warnings and $500 fines if requirements are ignored. It is estimated 20% of the country's pools aren't inspected. Auckland Council already inspects pools every three years.

- Additional reporting Ben Irwin

- NZ Herald

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