Swimming and Spa Pools

1. Overview

Pools are a significant risk to the safety of pre-school age children. Young children can drown in as little as 20 seconds. Most drownings are amongst the children of pool owners and their visitors.

The Building (Pools) Amendment Act 2016 aims to protect young children from the dangers of unfenced pools. This law has replaced the Fencing of Swimming Pools Act 1987.

2. Why have the laws been changed?

Although accidental deaths per year from drowning have reduced significantly in the last 30 years since legislation first came into effect, we can reduce this even further by ensuring the steps taken at completion of swimming pool sign-off by Council remain in place during the lifespan of pools and spa pools.

The new legislation provides additional enforcement tools to territorial authorities to help ensure safety around residential pools is maintained by owners. (See also “Will I need to have on-going pool inspections, and what is the cost?”).

3. What is classed as a pool?

A pool is classified as an excavation, structure or product that is used (or capable of being used) for swimming, wading, paddling or bathing including spa pools, with a water depth of 400 mm (16 inches) or more.

4. Do I have to fence my pool?

  • The maximum depth is less than 400mm.
  • The walls of the pool are 1.2m or more above the ground with no step-ups, hand holds or projections enabling a child to climb.
  • The pool is an indoor residential pool, or is inside a building.
  • The pool has a waiver or modification granted by the Council.

A common misunderstanding is thinking that spa pools with lockable covers meet safety standards.

Small heated pools (spa pools / hot tubs) do not require fencing or a barrier as long as access is prevented by covering with a securely locked solid lid. This only applies if the top lip of the pool is 760mm or greater above the surrounding deck, floor or ground.

5. Do I have to fence my temporary inflatable pool?

If the inflatable pool has the capability of being filled to 400mm or more then you will be required to fence the pool as per the legislation to restrict access by young children. It remains important to watch your children closely while they are playing in the pool.

Manufacturers and retailers of swimming pools and spa pools must inform buyers of their responsibilities by providing notices with these products.

6. I have an existing pool/spa that complied with the Fencing of Swimming Pools Act. What do I do?

If your fence already complies then you should not need to do anything further. But, you will need to ensure your pool is inspected every three years.

7. I have an existing pool/spa that doesn’t comply with the new law. What do I do?

We recommend that you first contact a Building Officer at the Council on 03 433 0300 to discuss your concerns and seek advice.

You may need to contact your local pool fencing supplier and/or window and door hardware supplier who will be able to supply and make adjustments to ensure your pool is compliant. Before commencing work, check with the Council to see if the extent of work you are doing will require a building consent.

8. I want to install or construct a new pool, what do I need to do?

You will require a building consent to:

  • build or install new swimming or spa pools and associated fences;
  • construct new or alter existing pool fencing; or
  • construct or install pool drainage and water supply protection systems.

You may require a resource consent to:

  • undertake earthworks to build or install a new swimming pool.

If you are unsure, we recommend that you contact a Building Officer at the Council on 03 433 0300 to discuss your fencing or pool requirements.

9. I’m connected to the Council water mains, how do I fill my pool?

Council’s Bylaw requires owners to prevent backflow of pool water to the mains supply. Contamination can happen if there is a drop in mains water pressure and pool water, which contains chemicals, is sucked into the mains supply.

If you are filling your pool with a hose, a hose connection vacuum breaker is an inexpensive backflow preventer. It fits between the tap and the hose and can be bought at hardware stores and plumbing outlets.

Pool treatment chemicals such as chlorine are hazardous substances and must be correctly stored and secured, away from other chemicals.

10. Will I need to have on-going pool inspections, and what is the cost?

Pool fences must remain compliant with the Building (Pools) Amendment Act at all times for the safety of young children.

You will need to have three yearly inspections within six months before or after the anniversary date of your pool or spa pool. The anniversary date is the date of issue of the Code of Compliance certificate or the Certificate of Acceptance.

You can choose who inspects your pool. You can use either a qualified Council inspector, or a registered Independently Qualified Pool Inspector (IQPI) accepted by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.

A register of Independently Qualified Pool Inspectors will be made available via the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment website.

Council’s cost for pool inspections can be found in the current schedule of Fees and Charges.

11. What happens if my pool is inspected and found non-compliant?

A non-compliant pool is an immediate danger to young children. If your pool was inspected by your Independently Qualified Pool Inspector, they will notify the Council that your pool is non-compliant.

Council can issue a notice to fix when a pool is non-compliant. It may direct you to drain the pool and keep it empty until the non-compliance has been fixed. Failure to comply with a notice to fix is an offence, on conviction subject to a fine up to $5,000.

12. How do I empty my pool?

If you need to empty the water from your pool for compliance or maintenance reasons, you must ensure it does not enter waterways. This means it cannot run down the stormwater drains, because these discharge directly into streams and rivers.

If you are connected to Council’s sewerage system, you should drain your pool water down the sewer via a gully trap. If you have an alternative sewer disposal system (e.g. septic tanks), you should discuss disposal with the Council.

Filtered backwash water may contain contaminants and so must also be put via a gully trap into the sewer.

You should take precautionary measures when emptying an in-ground pool where the ground water table is high or of concern, to prevent pool lifting and structural damage.

13. Where can I go for further information?

Helpful information is available by visiting the following websites. You can also download our Guideline for Swimming Pool Fencing (PDF, 597KB).

Other useful links:

Council is happy to answer any questions you may have about swimming / heated pools. You can contact us by phoning by phoning 03 433 0300. Alternatively, you can email building@waitaki.govt.nz.