New Zealand Law Society - Committee recommends passage of pool fencing changes

Committee recommends passage of pool fencing changes

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The Local Government and Environment select committee has released its report on the Building (Pools) Amendment Bill, with a majority recommendation that it be passed.

The bill would amend the Building Act 2004 and repeal the Fencing of Swimming Pools Act 1987. It would standardise compliance processes for territorial authorities and residential pool owners.

To ensure consistent and regular territorial authority processes, the bill proposes a nationwide standardised residential pool inspection cycle.

It would strengthen compliance and safety by introducing a graduated enforcement regime that includes notices to fix and infringement notices, as well as prosecutable offences.

Among the changes recommended by the committee:

  • Replacing the separate definitions of "spa pool" and "hot tub" with a new definition of "small heated pool". Replacing all references to spa pools and hot tubs with the term "small heated pool". The committee says it notes that about 96% of small heated pools are currently unfenced, and does not recommend amending the bill to require small heated pools to be treated in the same way as other residential pools.
  • Specifying that MBIE would be responsible for enforcing the requirements for manufacturers and sellers of any pool product to supply a notice summarising the responsibilities of owners, operators and occupiers to restrict access.
  • Allowing territorial authorities and the MBIE chief executive to grant waivers and modifications of the pool barrier requirements.
  • Requiring all residential pools to be inspected on a 3-yearly basis, rather than the 5-yearly cycle as originally proposed in the bill.
  • Allowing MBIE-approved independently qualified pool inspectors to carry out periodic inspections.
  • Allowing owners of existing pools to have the option of complying with the current requirements of the Building Code or the option of complying with the requirements of the Building Code that applied when their pool was installed.

The Green Party committee members opposed the bill.

The bill was referred to the committee on 16 September 2015 with submissions closing on 5 November 2015. The committee received 183 submissions and heard from 31 submitters.

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