Everyone with a pool must restrict its access with physical barriers: that’s the law

Drowning occurs silently and can take less than a minute.

At home, it is not always practical to watch young children constantly without even a moment’s distraction.

This is why all residential pools (including small heated pools such as spa pools or hot tubs) must have physical barriers that restrict the access by unsupervised young children (i.e. under five years of age).

Pool barriers must comply with the pool safety provisions enacted by the Building Act 2004 and must either:

  • surround the pool area; OR
  • in the case of specific small heated pools, it can cover the pool itself. Please refer to our ‘Pool Checklist‘ for further information.
  • Please always remember that pool barriers are not a substitute to the supervision of an adult or older person.

Who is responsible for ensuring compliance?

  • The owner of the pool
  • The pool operator (a pool operator is a person who operates and maintains a pool on a day-to-day basis)
  • The owner of the land
  • The occupier of the property
  • The purchaser of the pool
  • The lessee of the pool
  • The lessee of the premises

The persons mentioned as responsible for ensuring compliance, are required by law:

  • to notify Council of their intention to construct or install a pool before the construction or installation commences;
  • to notify Council of the existence of the pool;
  • to provide adequate physical barriers for the pool;
  • to keep the pool empty of water at all times until Council is satisfied that the physical barriers comply with the Building Act 2004.

Notes:

  • A building consent is required prior to constructing a pool and/or installing physical barriers around a pool area.
  • For small heated pools, the building consent relates to their permanent drainage connections and, when the physical barriers do not consist of a cover, to the installation of the physical barriers around the pool area.

Exempted water hazards (no barrier required)

  • Artificial lakes
  • Garden ponds and stormwater retention ponds
  • Pools which have no capacity of holding more than 400mm of water
  • Pools wholly enclosed within a building principally used for a purpose not related to the use of the pool (within a house for example)
  • Above-ground pools ONLY IF:
    • the pool is unclimbable (smooth vertical side walls are required); AND
    • the top of the side walls is at least 1.2m above the ground level; AND
    • the top of the side walls are at least 1.2m above any permanent projection from the ground outside the pool and within 1.2m of the walls of the pool; AND
    • the top of the side walls are at least 1.2m above any object standing on the ground outside the pool and within 1.2m of the walls of the pool; AND
    • the means to access the interior of the pool are removed or rendered inoperable whenever the pool is not in use.

Pool manufacturers and retailers

Manufacturers and retailers offering to sale pools in New Zealand are required by law to ensure to supply with the pool a notice explaining the responsibilities of owners, pool operators, and occupiers.

Periodic inspections of residential pools

Councils are required by law to ensure that all the residential pools within their jurisdiction are inspected at least once every three years, to determine whether the pool has barriers that comply with the legal requirements. Councils may accept a certificate of periodic inspection from an independently qualified pool inspector in lieu of carrying out the inspection themselves.

Means of compliance

Pool area

Physical barriers must enclose only the ‘immediate’ pool area: the pool itself, and a confined area around the pool in which occur activities closely connected, associated or combined with the use of the pool.
Activities not closely connected, associated or combined with the use of the pool are required to be kept outside the pool area (activities such as vegetable gardens, clotheslines, children play areas, and amenities).

Physical barriers

Physical barriers, including gates/doors and windows opening on the pool area, must comply with the requirements of the Building Code that are in force, or that were in force when the barrier was erected.

Notes:

  • The fencing of a residential pool in accordance with the specifications of the [repealed] Fencing of Swimming Pools Act 1987 remains an acceptable solution for establishing compliance with the Building Code.
  • Please refer to our “Pool Checklist” (above) for further information.

Boundary fences

A boundary fence may act as a physical barrier restricting the access to a residential pool provided it complies with the pool safety provisions enacted by the Building Act 2004. If the boundary fence does not comply with these rules, two options are available:

  • coming to an agreement with the neighbour(s) to make the fence comply; OR
  • building a new physical barrier at least 1.2m clear of the boundary fence.

Walls of a Building

The walls of a building may act as a physical barrier provided they efficiently restrict the access to a residential pool by unsupervised young children (ie, under five years of age). If the walls have doors or windows, rules apply about how these lock and operate.

Please refer to our ‘Pool Checklist‘ for further information.

Climbing hazards

Children are inquisitive, and water especially excites their curiosity. Given the chance, they will find ways to defeat physical barriers. That means that the people in charge of a pool must:

  • always keep the cover locked on small heated pools; AND
  • always be on the alert for nearby objects such as sets, compost bins, stacks of firewood, even movable objects such as wheelbarrows, that could be used to climb over a pool barrier; AND
  • always be on alert for overhanging tree limbs that could be used to get over a pool barrier.

Filling and emptying a pool

Council requires a backflow prevention device to be fitted to whatever means is used to fill the pool, generally just a hose tap, to stop contamination of the water supply. For hose-filled pools, the most common device is a hose connection vacuum breaker. It fits between the tap and the hose. Pool water must be drained into an outlet (sewer, not stormwater).

Notes:

  • Contamination can happen if there is a drop in mains water pressure and pool water, which contains chemicals, is sucked into the mains supply.
  • Hose connection vacuum breakers can be bought at hardware stores and plumbing outlets.

Booking a pool inspection

Pool inspections can be carried out by Councils or by independently qualified pool inspectors administered by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE).

Booking a pool inspection by a Council Officer may be made by telephone on (04) 527 2169. To book a pool inspection by an independently qualified pool inspector, please contact the MBIE.

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Last updated on 12 Sep 2017