By PHILIP ENGLISH
The family of an 18-month-old drowning victim have won a cash settlement from the Auckland City Council and a promise that it will toughen its enforcement of pool fencing rules.
The council announced yesterday that it had settled a lawsuit against the council lodged by the parents of Rupert Frost, the toddler who drowned in a Parnell pool in April 1997.
The settlement with Dianne Northcott and Dr Gavin Frost includes an apology for "shortcomings in the council's actions concerning the enforcement of fencing requirements for the pool."
The apology has been published in this week's council news sheet, City Scene.
The settlement also includes a confidential payment and an agreement by the council that it will put up a memorial plaque to Rupert in Alberon Reserve, Parnell.
The boy reached the swimming pool from the reserve through either a gap in the pool fence or through a defective gate.
The council had been aware since 1990 that the pool did not comply with the Fencing of Swimming Pools Act and had told the original owner of the property.
In June last year, two Auckland lawyers who rented the property, David McGregor and Rebecca Macky, pleaded guilty to "creating a criminal nuisance."
Each was fined $5000 and ordered to pay $5000 in reparation to Ms Northcott and Dr Frost.
The Deputy Mayor of Auckland, the Rev Dr Bruce Hucker, who mediated in the legal action, said yesterday that changes to council procedures under the fencing legislation had been made as a result of the family's lawsuit.
A survey of all pools in the council's territory had been speeded up and enforcement procedures would be quicker and tougher.
Dr Frost said the outcome of the legal action was positive.
"It was the right thing to do. We knew that.
"We've got no doubts about that whatsoever."
He said the act had been in place for 13 years, yet many people were reluctant to acknowledge their responsibility under the legislation.
He predicted that the Auckland City Council approach would flow on to other councils.
People would learn that they could not get away with inadequate fencing around swimming pools.
By PHILIP ENGLISH