Fencing Swimming Pools
Why do you need to fence your pool?
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. A place to relax, or even to talk business in relaxed surroundings.
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, perhaps the children of relatives or friends may visit you. (Often, the children who drown in private pools live on or are invited visitors to the property).
Anyone with practical experience of minding children, knows it is not possible 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 into 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, the child can suffer moderate to severe damage.
Parliament decided there is no reason for children to continue to fall into private pools and drown, or suffer brain damage and this can be almost entirely be avoided by adequate fencing. The Building Act 2004 is the law that requires your pool to be fenced.
Building (Pools) Amendment Act 2016
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 It amended the Building Act 2004, and repealed the Fencing of Swimming Pools Act 1987 (FOSPA).
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
Who does the Act apply to?
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 fenced 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 that 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
- People are employed specifically to supervise the pool when it is in use and the entire pool facility is locked at all other times.
What sort of fencing does my pool need?
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 compliance requirements.
Please see NZ Standards 8500:2006
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 10mm 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, panels or under the fence.
What standard of fencing is required?
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 and F9/AS1 and F9/AS2.
Gates and doors
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 and latches from any open position.
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 the ground/finished floor level measured outside the pool area.
There must be no object near the gate that could hold it open.
What if my pool is right next to a building?
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.
Doors can't be fitted with any device that can hold them open.
Windows lower than 1200mm from the inside floor must be fitted with limiters that prevent the windows opening more than 100mm.
The pool area cannot include such things as a clothes line, play equipment or a vegetable garden.
A secure boundary fence is not, on its own, sufficient. It would not comply with the Act. However, subject to strict conditions, part of a boundary fence may be used as a part of a pool fence.
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 so that it becomes easy for a child to climb over the pool area.
What about an existing pool?
There are existing pools, which were built prior to the Act coming into force. These were often subject to a bylaw which only required that the property itself be adequately fenced.
This reflected the view at the time, that the greatest danger arose through children straying onto a property. This does happen, but later research in New Zealand and overseas has shown that the majority of accidents happen to the children of pool owners or of their legitimate visitors.
Therefore, the Act requires all pools be fenced to the standard set by it.
Can building owners be exempted from the Act?
Pool owners can apply to the Council for an exemption from the Act. The Council, in granting an exemption, could specify certain conditions that the pool or property must meet. The Council can only grant an exemption or a special condition if this would provide equal or better protection.
Here is all the information you should need regarding new swimming/spa pool fencing requirements, including diagrams.
Disposing of swimming / spa pool water
If you have any queries, please contact our customer services team via email firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone 07 3153030. You can also read this guideline on how to dispose of spa and swimming pool water.
Water Safety New Zealand's under-fives water safety ambassador Ameliaranne Ekenasio features in a new campaign to emphasise the message that constant supervision saves lives of our tamariki.
The videos are designed to remind parents and guardians that accidents can happen in seconds and to encourage people to hop in the water and have fun with their kids when they're at the pool.
For more information relating to Water Safety New Zealand, please visit their website.