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Inspections and fees
Why do you need to fence your pool?
Building (Pools) Amendment Act 2016
What about an existing pool?
Who does the Act apply to?
What sort of fencing does my pool need?
What standard of fencing is required?
Gates and doors
What if my pool is right next to a building?
Can my boundary fence be used as my pool fence?
Are there different standards for spa pools?
All swimming pools and spa pools must be registered with the Council. Changes in the rules around residential swimming pools mean we now have to inspect more pools, more often, to make sure they are safely fenced. Each year we have to inspect one third of all pools in the district. We’ve introduced two new inspections fees to cover the cost of the extra time and resource needed to more actively monitor our residential pools:
- $80 first inspection fee
- $160 if a follow up inspection is needed.
The good news is, if your pool meets all the safety requirements, you won’t need another inspection for three years.
A private swimming or spa pool is a significant asset for the home. It becomes the centre of activities in summer; the place for the family to sit around in the evenings or when friends come over for a BBQ.
Sadly it can also be a deadly danger for small children and a significant number of toddlers have drowned in private swimming and spa pools. Although you may not have small children or grandchildren yourself, the children of relatives or friends may visit you. Research in New Zealand and overseas has shown that the majority of accidents happen to the children of pool owners or their visitors.
Anyone with experience of minding children, knows it’s difficult to constantly supervise small children. Even the most careful parent may become distracted from time to time - sufficient time for a small child to get to and fall in an unfenced or unsecured pool. Even if a toddler is saved from drowning, the outcome is not always a happy one. If a child’s brain is deprived of oxygen for only a few minutes, it can suffer moderate to severe damage. This can be almost entirely avoided by adequate fencing.
The Building Act 2004 is the law that requires your pool to be fenced. The Building (Pools) Amendment Act took effect from 1 January 2017. It amended the Building Act 2004, and repealed the Fencing of Swimming Pools Act 1987.
The changes are to enhance child safety around residential pools, as drowning is a major cause of accidental death or permanent injury of young children. Many of these drownings occur in private, unfenced or inadequately fenced pools.
Pool fencing rules will remain largely the same, however the new Act requires Council to inspect pool fencing at least once every three years.
Key changes include:
- Three-yearly pool fence inspections by Council
- Spas and hot tubs over 760mm high with a water surface area of less than 5m2 need lockable covers, rather than fences
- Garden pools and drainage ponds don't need fences
- Doors from a building that are not self closing and self latching must be alarmed
- Some infinity pools and pools by a 1200mm cliff do not need four-sided fencing
If your pool was built after 1 January 2017, your pool must comply with the new rules. If it was built before that date, it can comply with the rules that were in place at the time it was built.
Pool owners, and people, including tenants, with pools on their property, all have duties under the Act. Pool owners must tell the Council if they have a pool or are intending to get or build a pool. A building consent is required and fencing around all pools must be to the standard set out in the Act. If a pool is not fenced to this standard, the owner must ensure that the pool is kept empty.
Persons renting or leasing a house with a pool must ensure the pool is empty if it does not have fencing that complies with the Act.
Council is required to take all reasonable steps to make sure the Act is complied with.
If a pool is kept empty, barriers must be erected to prevent falling.
If your pool is 400mm deep or capable of being deeper, it is required to be fenced properly.
You do not need fencing if:
- The pool sits above ground with smooth vertical walls that are 1200mm or more high, with no permanent steps for children to climb over into the pool.
- The pool is less than 400mm deep and is not capable of being deeper.
- The pool is inside your house, for example, an indoor spa pool.
Fencing must fully enclose the pool area and it should prevent young children from getting into the pool area from any part of the property. A boundary fence can make up part of your pool fencing, providing it meets the required standards.
Please see links below for diagrams and detailed information about fencing requirements.
The fence must:
- Be a minimum height of 1200mm high at every point of the outside of the fence and must not be climbable.
- Any perforated material (trellis, mesh or netting) must have gaps no wider than 13mm if the fence is 1200mm high, or gaps no wider than 35mm if the fence is 1800mm high.
Any horizontal supports on the outside of the fence must be at least 900mm apart (top to top).
The fence must be at least 1200mm higher than any permanent climbable object or protrusion that is within 1200mm of the fence.
There must be no space greater than 100mm between the fence pickets or rails, or under the fence.
Pool fences must meet the standard required by the Act. This requires existing pools to be fenced to the specifications of NZ Standard 8500:2006. A new fence or alterations to an existing fence must meet the performance standard of the Building Code.
Any gates and doors need to open away from the pool. Every gate needs to be fitted with a self-closing and self-latching device that closes/latches from a static start of 15cm.
The outside latches must be at least 1500mm above the ground and the inside latch must not be accessible by reaching through the gate unless the hole in the gate is at a minimum height of 1200mm above ground/finished floor level.
There must be no object near the gate that could hold it open.
The wall of a building may form part of the fence if it complies with the Building Act 2004 as amended.
Any doors that provide direct access to the pool must be self-closing and self-latching, and must be fitted with a locking device at least 1500mm from floor level or an approved alarm. They can't be fitted with any device that can hold them open. A sign must be fixed adjacent to the inside door handle stating ‘SWIMMING POOL. CLOSE THE DOOR’.
Windows lower than 1000mm from the inside floor must be fitted with limiters that prevent the windows opening more than 100mm.
A secure boundary fence is not, on its own, sufficient. A pool fence cannot enclose things such as a clothes line, play equipment or a vegetable garden. However, part of a boundary fence can be used as a part of a pool fence, if it meets the required standards.
If a boundary fence is made use of, there is a danger that a neighbour may unwittingly make the fence unsafe. For example, the neighbour may stack timber against the fence which might make it easy for a child to climb over into your pool area.
If your spa pool or hot tub has a water surface area of 5m2 or less and walls that are 760mm above the adjacent floor or ground, then a pool cover can be used instead of fencing. The cover must:
- Restrict children when closed.
- Be able to be readily closed by an adult.
- Be able to withstand a load of 20kg at the centre of the cover.
- Slope from the centre to the outside edges (to prevent water ponding).
- Have signage on two opposite sides stating ‘WARNING. This spa pool cover must be kept locked except when under adult supervision.’
The cover fastenings must:
- Be held in place with straps fitted with lockable snap fasteners with a minimum width of 33mm, or use metal padlocks instead.
- Be capable of maintaining the cover in place so there is no opening that a 100mm sphere could pass through.
If your spa pool or hot tub doesn’t meet all of the above, then it will need to be fenced.
The above information sets out some of the main standards for swimming/spa pool fencing. Below are all of the requirements, and some useful diagrams: