Property Law
Swimming pool

As we come out of winter and head into the warmer months, you may be looking to put the cover on the spa pool or fill up the swimming pool. However, before you dive in, have you checked that your pool is compliant with the Building (Pools) Amendment Act 2016?

The Building (Pools) Amendment Act 2016 has been law since 1 January 2017 and introduced several significant changes:

  • Requirements for mandatory inspections of swimming pools every three years;
  • Permitting safety covers to be used as barriers for spa pools and hot tubs;
  • Indoor pools requiring means of restricting access;
  • Introducing additional enforcement tools for territorial authorities, including notices to fix;
  • Manufacturers of pools being required to ensure that pools supplied include a notice approved by the territorial authority, summarising the responsibilities of pool owners, operators and occupiers.

Fencing Requirements
All pools must have fencing at least 1200mm high at every point around the entire length of the outside of the fence. A boundary fence can be used as a pool fence, provided there is nothing on the neighbour’s side that could be used to scale the fence. Buildings may also form part of the barrier if they meet specific requirements, mostly relating to lockable doors and windows. All pool gates must only open outwards and swing away from the pool and self-close.

There are some exemptions to the fencing requirements, these include:

  • If the swimming pool sits above ground with vertical side walls that are a minimum 1200mm high; and
  • The depth of water in the pool is maintained at less than 400mm (such as a shallow paddling pool or an empty swimming pool).

Portable pools are treated the same as fixed pools, so if a paddling pool can hold water to a depth greater than 400mm it will require sufficient fencing. A building consent is required to install a pool fence.

Inspections
Every territorial authority must ensure that residential pools are inspected at least once every three years, within six months before or after the pool’s anniversary date to ensure they have adequate fencing. Some councils may not have their own inspectors so instead are permitted to accept a certificate from an independently qualified pool inspector. Territorial authorities have the discretion to inspect pools at any time.

Spa Pools
Spa pool owners will be happy to know they do not need to fence their spa pool so long as:

  • the water surface area is 5m2 or less
  • the side walls of the spa pool are at least 760mm high above the adjacent floor
  • the side walls cannot be easily climbed.

The spa pool must also have a lockable cover that restricts the entry of children when closed, is able to withstand a reasonably foreseeable load, be able to be readily returned to the closed position and have signage indicating its child safety features.

Indoor Pools
Indoor Pools are treated the same as outdoor pools in that access to the pool room must be restricted. This can be accomplished with locked doors that are self-closing or alarmed.

Enforcement
The consequences of not complying with the requirements can be costly. If a territorial authority inspects a pool and finds it is not complaint, they can issue a notice to fix. Should the notice to fix not be complied with, the territorial authority can then issue a fine not exceeding $5,000.

Existing pools constructed prior to 1 January 2017 will comply with the requirements if they complied with Fencing of Swimming Pools Act 1987.

Your pool should have now been inspected at least once since the new law came into effect. However, if you require further information about fencing your pool or have received a notice to fix from your local council that you disagree with, or they have refused to issue a Code Compliance Certificate for your fence, you can make a complaint to the territorial authority or apply to the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment for a determination of whether the fence is compliant.

We are experienced with these processes and finding solutions for pool owners. Please reach out to us at Holland Becket Law.

James is a solicitor working in Simon Collett’s commercial/property team at our Rotorua office.