Changes may be coming to pool fencing rules, but Whanganui homeowners are being urged to ensure everyone is safe around swimming and spa pools.

Greg Hoobin, Whanganui District Council building team leader, said many people spend summer enjoying water-based activities but needed to be mindful of the dangers, even in something as innocent as an inflatable paddling pool.

"The recent spate of drownings in New Zealand is a sobering reminder that reliance on education and adult supervision alone is not enough to protect our loved ones where water is involved," he said. "Children are naturally inquisitive and often drawn to water. The consequences of allowing a young child unsupervised access to a pool can be fatal."

He said all spa and swimming pools, whether in or above-ground, were required by law to meet the requirements of the Fencing of Swimming Pools Act 1987. Planned changes to the law "will simplify some of the current rules and may reduce compliance costs. But until the new legislation is enacted - probably not until January, 2017 - pools must meet the current legal requirements".

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Mr Hoobin said the act was designed to protect young children from drowning in unfenced pools, but poorly maintained fencing and gates increased the danger and allowed easy access to pool areas.

"Most children who drown in home swimming pools do so when they're able to access pools that don't comply with the act. This is often due to the deterioration of fences, failing gates and gate latches, modifications to pool fences and gates being propped open. Maintenance of these features and supervision of children around all pools is essential ... Pool fences must be compliant at all times to ensure safety of young children."

He said if a pool could hold more than 400mm of water it needed a building consent that included the pool fencing requirements. This also applied to inflatable, temporary kitset and spa pools (with or without lockable lids).

Mr Hoobin said the consent process let council add these pools to its swimming pools register and meant the pools and fences could be audited.

"Our staff will be carrying out inspections throughout the year as part of a regular audit cycle of existing pools and spas to ensure they are adequately fenced and comply with the act. When the revised legislation has passed through Parliament, swimming pool owners will be contacted about the new audit process.

"In the meantime, if you have a swimming/spa pool that hasn't been added to council's register, or if you have concerns about pool fencing, we encourage you to contact us."

- Go to: www.whanganui.govt.nz/building. Pamphlets are also available at the council office in Guyton St.