Swimming pools

1. Swimming pools - an overview

Every residential property with a swimming pool must have physical barriers to restrict young children from accessing the pool. Drowning occurs silently and can take less than a minute.

It is not always practical to watch young children constantly without even a moment’s distraction. This is why Central Government has concluded that all residential pools (including small heated pools such as spa pools or hot tubs) must have physical barriers. The legislation applies to all residential properties with swimming pools regardless of whether or not children currently reside there. 

Recent statutory changes brought in a requirement for tri-annual Council inspections to be undertaken and Council is ramping up the pool inspection program.

We recognise that the change in legislation creates extra requirements on pool owners and as such our first inspection will be free providing that our allocated inspection time/date is followed. Requests to alter the free inspection time/date will incur the published swimming pool inspection fee of $124.00 (through to 30 June and thereafter subject to annual plan fee changes). Properties with pools will be sent an inspection notification letter informing occupants of the inspection date and an approximate inspection time. Officers legally warranted to enter land will undertake inspections on the allocated day. Please note that every pool is different and as such, and even with the best care and exercise, the exact inspection times cannot be defined as we may experience delays through the day.

2. Who is responsible for ensuring compliance?

  • The owner of the pool
  • The pool operator (a pool operator is a person who operates and maintains a pool on a day-to-day basis)
  • The owner of the land
  • The occupier of the property
  • The purchaser of the pool
  • The lessee of the pool
  • The lessee of the premises

The persons mentioned as responsible for ensuring compliance, are required by law:

  • to notify Council of their intention to construct or install a pool before the construction or installation commences;
  • to notify Council of the existence of the pool;
  • to provide adequate physical barriers for the pool;
  • to keep the pool empty of water at all times until Council is satisfied that the physical barriers comply with the Building Act 2004.

Notes:

  • A building consent is required prior to constructing physical barriers around a pool area (e.g. pool fencing).
  • Depending on the type of pool a building consent may also required for; the construction of the pool and, any permanent drainage connections.

Pool manufacturers and retailers

Manufacturers and retailers offering to sale pools in New Zealand are required by law to ensure to supply with the pool a notice explaining the responsibilities of owners, pool operators, and occupiers. 

3. Exempt water hazards (no barrier required)

  • Artificial lakes
  • Garden ponds and stormwater retention ponds
  • Pools which have no capacity of holding more than 400mm of water
  • Above-ground pools ONLY IF:
    • the pool is unclimbable (smooth vertical side walls are required); AND
    • the top of the side walls is at least 1.2m above the ground level; AND
    • the top of the side walls are at least 1.2m above any permanent projection from the ground outside the pool and within 1.2m of the walls of the pool; AND
    • the top of the side walls are at least 1.2m above any object standing on the ground outside the pool and within 1.2m of the walls of the pool; AND
    • the means to access the interior of the pool are removed or rendered inoperable whenever the pool is not in use.

4. Booking a pool inspection

Pool inspections can be carried out by Councils or by independently qualified pool inspectors administered by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE).

Booking a pool inspection by a Council Officer may be made by telephone on (04) 527 2169.

To book a pool inspection by an independently qualified pool inspector, please refer to the ‘pool inspector public register’ administered by MBIE.

5. Swimming pool compliance

Pool area

Physical barriers must enclose only the ‘immediate’ pool area: the pool itself, and a confined area around the pool in which occur activities closely connected, associated or combined with the use of the pool.
Activities not closely connected, associated or combined with the use of the pool are required to be kept outside the pool area (activities such as vegetable gardens, clotheslines, children play areas, and amenities).

Physical barriers

Physical barriers, including gates/doors and windows opening on the pool area, must comply with the requirements of the Building Code that are in force, or that were in force when the barrier was erected.

Notes:

  • The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment publish acceptable solutions (F9/AS1 and F9/AS2) for Compliance with Building Code Clause F9—Means of restricting access to residential pools.
  • The fencing of a residential pool in accordance with the specifications of the [repealed] Fencing of Swimming Pools Act 1987 was an acceptable method for establishing compliance with the Building Code prior to the implementation Building Code Clause F9.

Boundary fences

A boundary fence may act as a physical barrier restricting the access to a residential pool provided it complies with the pool safety provisions enacted by the Building Act 2004. If the boundary fence does not comply with these rules, two options are available:

  • coming to an agreement with the neighbour(s) to make the fence comply; OR
  • building a new physical barrier at least 1.2m clear of the boundary fence.

Walls of a Building

The walls of a building may act as a physical barrier provided they efficiently restrict the access to a residential pool by unsupervised young children (ie, under five years of age). If the walls have doors or windows, rules apply about how these lock and operate.

Climbing hazards

Children are inquisitive, and water especially excites their curiosity. Given the chance, they will find ways to defeat physical barriers. That means that the people in charge of a pool must:

  • always keep the cover locked on small heated pools; AND
  • always be on the alert for nearby objects such as sets, compost bins, stacks of firewood, even movable objects such as wheelbarrows, that could be used to climb over a pool barrier; AND
  • always be on alert for overhanging tree limbs that could be used to get over a pool barrier.

Filling and emptying a pool

Council requires a backflow prevention device to be fitted to whatever means is used to fill the pool, generally just a hose tap, to stop contamination of the water supply. For hose-filled pools, the most common device is a hose connection vacuum breaker. It fits between the tap and the hose. Pool water must be drained into an outlet (sewer, not stormwater).

Notes:

  • Contamination can happen if there is a drop in mains water pressure and pool water, which contains chemicals, is sucked into the mains supply.
  • Hose connection vacuum breakers can be bought at hardware stores and plumbing outlets.

6. Swimming pool FAQs

  • What can owners, occupants and persons responsible for the pool do in the meantime? – Download a copy of our “pool inspection checklist” which is the benchmark we use to survey pools. Alternatively visit Council reception and request a hard copy.
  • Why is Council not fencing the rivers and ponds? – This requirement applies to residential pools only. Central Government has defined that rivers, artificial lakes, garden ponds, storm-water retention ponds and the like as exempt water hazards. Public pools are also exempt due to the presence of dedicated lifeguards during hours of operation.
  • Surely my kid’s paddling pool doesn’t need a fence? – Correct, the laws apply only to pools capable of holding more than 400mm (40cm) of water.
  • Does my spa pool need a fence? Maybe, there is different compliance solution for small heated pools however if all of the criteria is not met then yes a fence will be required (Ref: pool inspection checklist).
  • What happens if my pool is not compliant? – This will depend on the risks and hazards associated to the situation, minor defects will need to be fixed in a timely fashion, and major deficiencies will need immediate mitigations (such as empting the pool or construction fencing around the hazard). Pools with major deficiencies will likely receive a notice to fix requiring immediate mitigation action.
  • What happens if I find my pool fencing to be deficient, can I fix it? – repairs and maintenance can be undertaken however if new fencing is required that is defined as building work that requires consent. That said the consenting process gives surety that the proposed solution complies pre-construction and certification of such by way of inspection and a code compliance certificate.
  • Is this a one off survey? – No we are now required to do this every three years. The fees associated to this requirement are $120.00 per visit (subject to annual plan fee increases). This equates to a cost of approximately $40.00 per annum.
  • Why has Council not visited my pool earlier? – The requirement to visit tri-annually came in recently however the obligation for an owner to restrict access to their pool has been in place since 1987.