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Fencing of swimming pools

If you have a swimming pool or spa pool, you are responsible for fencing it to prevent unsupervised access.

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Do swimming and spa pools need to be fenced?

There are two pieces of legislation relating to swimming and spa pool fencing: the Fencing of Swimming Pools Act 1987 and the Building Act 2004.

The Building Act applies to the construction of new pools and alterations to existing pools. All such work must comply with Clause F4 of the Building Code, ‘Safety from Falling’, which requires the provision of barriers.

The Fencing of Swimming Pools Act was enacted to protect young children from falling into unfenced swimming pools. The Act requires people with pools (including spa pools) to put fences around them to a height of 1.2 metres.

A swimming pool is defined in the Act as ‘an excavation, structure, or product that is used or is capable of being used for the purpose of swimming, wading, paddling, or bathing; and includes any such excavation, structure, or product, that is a spa pool’.

You can ask for an exemption from your local council, but you’ll only get one if the council can be satisfied that there is no significant increased risk to young children from not fencing. Each council may have different rules and will treat each application individually.

Essentially both Acts require a fence around pools regardless of when the pool was installed. The fence needs to be an effective barrier that restricts access to the pool by children under six years of age. The fence must not have any toeholds or climbable rails and must have self-closing and latching gates.

Check with your council, but a locked cover over the spa pool may not necessarily be enough. It may also have to be fenced.

Placement of the fence

The fence can only enclose the immediate pool area but may include things used in association with the pool, such as changing sheds. You can’t fence the whole back yard which includes the clothesline or the vegetable garden and expect to comply with the Act, because children generally come and go in these areas freely.

Buildings, for example, a wall of the house, may form part of the fencing if it complies with the Act. But if the wall of the house has a door into the house, the door will need to be self-locking.

Who checks up on fences?

It is the owner’s responsibility to advise the council of the existence of the pool, if it doesn’t already know of it. If is also the owner’s responsibility to ensure the fence complies with the Fencing of Swimming Pools Act and the Building Act requirements throughout its life. Missing sections of the fence, or a gate that is not self latching, must be replaced or repaired immediately. The council could make you empty the pool and you could be liable for a fine of up to $500 for non-compliance, and up to $50 a day for continuing non-compliance.

Councils administer this Act, so if you have any questions check with your local council.

You have to get building consent to put in a pool or spa pool and a condition of the consent will be the fencing. The council will inspect the fence before issuing a code compliance certificate.

The council has power under the Act to enter your property if they suspect you have an unfenced pool

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