New pool safety legislation took effect on 1 January 2017. The Building (Pools) Amendment Act 2016 repealed the Fencing of Swimming Pools Act 1987 and the requirements for restricting access to residential pools has been moved to the Building Act 2004.
Key changes include:
- a new requirement for mandatory inspections of swimming pools every three years
- allowing safety covers to be used as barriers for spa pools and hot tubs
- indoor pools now require a means of restricting access
- introducing additional enforcement tools for Councils, including notices to fix.
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. 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 Councils to help ensure safety around residential pools is maintained by owners.
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.
A barrier is not required for 'residential pools' where:
- 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.
Safety covers can be the barrier that restricts access to a small heated pool, such as a spa pool, where:
- the water surface area is 5m2 or less.
- the side walls of the pool are at least 760mm high above the adjacent floor.
- the side walls cannot be easily climbed.
A safety cover must have signage indicating its child safety features, and must be able to:
- restrict entry of children under five years of age when closed.
- withstand a foreseeable load.
- be readily returned to the closed position.
Acceptable Solution F9/AS2 has more information.
Portable pools are treated in the same way as other residential pools. They must have barriers that restrict unsupervised access by young children if they can hold water to a depth of 400mm or more and have water in them (even if the pool is only partially filled).
Manufacturers and retailers of swimming pools and spa pools must inform buyers of their responsibilities by providing notices with these products.
If your fence already complies then you should not need to do anything further. However, you will still need your pool inspected every three years.
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.
Waivers and modifications of the requirements for residential pools
The Act provides Councils the power to grant waivers or modifications of the requirements in section 162C of the Act for certain residential pools to have barriers. These powers allow for the exercise of judgement when dealing with unusual building compliance situations.
The requirement in the Act that certain residential pools must have barriers is mirrored in the Building Code. If it is appropriate to grant a waiver or modification of the requirements of the Building Code relating to residential pools, it is also necessary to also grant a waiver or modification of section 162C of the Act.
I want to install or construct a new pool, what do I need to do?
Building work for residential pools (including installation of pool drainage and water supply protection systems) requires a building consent unless it is exempt under Schedule 1 of the Act. Pools below certain thresholds are exempt under clause 23 of Schedule 1. Even if the building work for a residential pool is exempt, the owner must still obtain a building consent for the barrier. This confirms from the outset that the pool has barriers that restrict the access of young children, and informs Council of the location of the pool. The subsequent issue of a code compliance certificate sets the anniversary date for periodic inspections to occur. The installation of a cover for a small heated pool is exempt from requiring a building consent.
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.
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.
Residential pools must be inspected every three years. These mandatory inspections do not apply to small heated pools, such as spa pools and hot tubs, where the barrier is a safety cover.
Pool owners can choose who undertakes the mandatory inspection of their pool – either Council, or an independently qualified pool inspector (IQPI). The IQPI is a person accepted by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) as qualified to carry out periodic inspections. Independently qualified pool inspectors on Trading Standards’ pool inspector website has more information.
In addition to three yearly inspections, Councils also have discretion to inspect any residential pool at any time, including small heated pools, to determine whether the pool barrier requirements are being complied with.
Council’s cost for pool inspections and receiving information (IQP Inspector) can be found in the current schedule of Fees and Charges.
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.
The Act provides enforcement tools to help achieve compliance with the requirements of the Act relating to residential pools. If a residential pool is non-compliant with the barrier requirements, Council can issue a notice to fix, to any person responsible for ensuring the pool is compliant. Persons failing to comply with this notice to fix could receive an infringement fee of $500, or a fine of up to $5000.
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.
Helpful information is available by visiting the following websites.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you cannot agree with Council about a residential pool and/or barrier, you may be able to seek a determination from MBIE if the matter relates to whether the pool and/or barrier complies with the Building Code, or about a building consent, code compliance certificate or a notice to fix relating to the pool/barrier.
Determinations has more information.