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Swimming pools and fencingNgā puna kaukau me ngā taiapa

The purpose of swimming pool legislation is to prevent young children from drowning in residential swimming pools. The solution is simple, fence it. This page includes all you need to know and how to go about making sure your pool is safe for kids.

New legislation, new responsibilities

Did you know your responsibilities as a pool owner have changed? Pool Safety Barriers are now regulated by the Building Act 2004 and the new Building Code Clause F9 – Restricting Access to Residential Pools, which took effect from 1 January 2017. 

The Act requires that Council must ensure that all pool safety barriers within its jurisdiction are compliant, and requires that Council undertake scheduled inspections every three years. Council will therefore need to inspect all pool safety barriers in this scheduled inspection programme even if they have been previously inspected and approved.

The new legislation also provides for pool safety barriers that were previously deemed compliant with the Fencing of Swimming Pools Act 1987, and then so long as they remain compliant upon inspection, they are deemed to meet the requirements of Section 162C of the Building Act.

No. If your pool sits within the following criteria, you do not need a pool safety barrier.

  • If your pool has smooth vertical walls that are 1200mm or more high, and there is a 1.2m clear zone all around the pool, with no permanent steps or objects that would enable a small child to climb into the pool. Please note that any permanent steps would need to be fenced and gated in accordance with legislative requirements. 
  • If the maximum depth of water in the pool is less than 400mm (such as a shallow paddling pool or an empty swimming pool). Please note a responsible adult should supervise the use of paddling pools at all times.
  • If people are employed specifically to supervise the pool when it is in use, and the entire pool facility is locked at all other times.

The Fencing of Swimming Pools Act 1987 has been repealed, and the provisions relating to residential pool safety are now contained within the Building Act 2004.

The New Zealand Building Code Clause F9 – Restricting Access to Residential Pools, has also been created for new pools / barriers established after 1 January 2017.

Key changes include:

  • Residential pools barriers must be inspected every three years.
  • Safety covers will be able to be used as barriers for certain small heated pools.
  • Territorial authorities will have better enforcement tools to deal with non-compliance, including notices to fix and infringement notices.

The purpose is to prevent drowning of and injury to, young children by restricting unsupervised access to residential pools by children under 5 years of age.

It applies to pools with a maximum depth of water of 400mm or more, whether the pool is filled or partly filled with water.

The Building (Pools) Amendment Act 2016 added a new clause to the Building Code Clause F9 – Restricting Access to Residential Pools.  Pool safety barriers were previously regulated under the Building Code Clause F4 – Safety from Falling and the Fencing of Swimming Pools Act 1987.

Pools established after 1 January 2017 must have physical barriers that comply with Building Code Clause F9 – Restricting Access to Residential Pools.

Residential pools established before 1 January 2017 will not have to make upgrades to meet the requirements of the new Building Code – clause F9.  They only need to continue to comply with the requirements of clause F4 and/or the Schedule of the Fencing of Swimming Pools Act 1987.

Some existing pools may require upgrades to ensure they continue to comply with the requirements of pool fencing that were in place when the pool was established.

The pool fence/barrier is required to enclose the pool and the immediate pool area.  This could be different for each pool.  Ideally, the fence/barrier will be built around the pool itself, to isolate it from other areas of the property not used in conjunction with the pool.

Some properties will utilize a wall of the house to act as a pool barrier.  In these cases, any windows and doors in the house providing access into the immediate pool area will be required to comply with specific requirements for when the pool was established.

Pools established pre January 2017

Yes, a boundary fence can be used for pool fencing.  This can create problems however, as the pool owner cannot always determine what is on the other side of the boundary fence.  A neighbour may have trees or other climbable structures on their side of the fence that could make the fence non-compliant.  It is the pool owner’s responsibility to ensure compliance is achieved.

Pools established after January 2017

The new Building Code clause F9 has different regulations regarding a boundary fence which focuses more on making the pool side of the fence safe.

Having pool fencing that is not a boundary fence, eliminates any potential issues caused by neighbouring properties.

This will be determined on a case to case basis.  It depends on the layout of the property and what is contained within the immediate pool area.  The immediate pool area must only contain items associated to the use of the pool i.e. loungers, changing shed etc.

Other items such as a clothes line, swing set, sand pit, veggie garden etc, are not permitted inside the pool area.

Previous determinations have been made in regards to this subject, and they can be viewed on the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) website.

It is now a legislative requirement under the Building Act 2004, for all residential pools to be inspected at least once every three years.

Components of pool fencing, such as self-closing and self-latching devices, can deteriorate over time and stop operating as required. The inspections will ensure these components continue to operate to the required level of compliance.

The responsibility lies with the Napier City Council or an Independently Qualified Pool Inspector (IQPI). It is the pool owner’s decision who they choose to carry out the inspection.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) is responsible for administering the IQPI regime. This helpful site has all you need to know about finding - and engaging - an IQPI.

Napier City Council is currently working on a three-yearly inspection regime determined by geographical locations. A letter will be sent to property owners prior to the inspection to notify them of the upcoming inspection. 

An inspection of the pool will also be completed if council receives a complaint in relation to the pool.

It will be necessary for you to be present if any of the following apply:

  • access to the pool is restricted
  • the Building Compliance Officer needs to gain access inside buildings that form part of the pool barrier to enable doors and windows to be inspected
  • you have a dog 
  • you wish to learn more about pool fencing from the Building Compliance Officer during the inspection.  

Please call +64 6 835 7579 to schedule an inspection time when you can be present.

In all other situations you are not required to be home for the inspection, however it is beneficial as the Building Compliance Officer can discuss any issues that may arise.

If your pool fails the initial inspection for any reason, instructions will be provided to you detailing what work is required to gain compliance. A follow-up inspection will be required to ensure the work has been completed and compliance has been met.

The pools status will remain as non-compliant on the pools register until the Building Compliance Officer is satisfied compliance has been met. This can lead to potential issues should the property owner decide to sell the property.

Napier City Council covers the cost of the inspection and associated administration through a targeted rate of $50 per annum.

Independently Qualified Pool Inspectors will set their own inspection fees.

Yes, pool fencing does require a building consent. Information about the building consent process can be found on the Napier City Council website.

If you install a pool fence without a building consent, it may not meet the requirements of the Act and you may be instructed to make the necessary alterations. You will be required to apply for a Certificate of Acceptance with any non-compliant work requiring a building consent to rectify it. A building consent ensures it is done right the first time.

Fencing is no longer required for spa pools and other small heated pools if the following criteria are met:

  1. Surface water area of not more than 5m2, and
  2. Has sides at least 760mm above the ground/decking level, and
  3. The sides are non-climbable, and
  4. The spa pool has a cover that:

(a) Restricts entry of children when closed, and
(b) Has lockable strap fasteners, and
(c) Is able to withstand a reasonably foreseeable load, and
(d) Is able to be readily returned to the closed position, and
(e) Has signage indicating its child safety features.

Persons responsible for ensuring compliance are listed under section 162C (4) of the Building Act 2004 as listed below:

  1. The owner of the pool.
  2. The pool operator (a person who operates and maintains a pool on a day-to-day basis).
  3. The owner of the land on which the pool is situated.
  4. The occupier of the property in or on which the pool is situated.
  5. If the pool is subject to a hire purchase agreement – the purchaser of the pool.
  6. The lessee of the pool or the premises if a lease is in place.

Failure to comply with the pool safety requirements of the Building Act 2004 may result in a notice to fix and/or an infringement notice being issued to ensure compliance is met.

Napier City Council will work with pool owners to ensure compliance is met. A notice to fix and/or infringement notice will only be issued where the persons responsible refuse to take any steps to make their pool compliant or there is a clear pattern of continuous non-compliance or no effort made to ensure compliance.

Further information on notices to fix can be found in sections 163-168 of the Building Act 2004.

The above information was correct at the time of writing, and may be subject to change subject to legislative amendments. If you require further information regarding pool safety requirements, contact the Building Compliance Officer by ringing the Napier City Council Customer Service Centre on +64 6 835 7579.

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