Your responsibilities as a pool owner
All pool fencing needs a Building Consent
Important Note: All swimming pool fencing must only be installed under an approved Building Consent. Whilst some swimming pools with less than 35,000 litres water capacity may now be exempted from the requirement for a Building Consent, ALL pool fencing must only be installed under an approved consent, regardless of whether the pool itself is exempt or needs to be consented.
All pool fencing restricting access to residential swimming pools is now subject to new requirements under the Building Act 2004. These changes took effect from 1 January 2017. All pool fencing in New Zealand must now meet the requirements of section 162C of the Building Act.
If your pool was installed before 2017, and your pool fence remains compliant with the previous legislation, being the Fencing of Swimming Pools Act 1987, it will still be considered compliant with section 162C. Any new pool fencing installed after 1 January 2017 must meet the functionality and performance requirements of the new Building Code F9, in order to meet section 162C.
The Building Act also now places a requirement on Local Authorities to ensure that all pool fencing within its jurisdiction is compliant and Tauranga City Council undertakes scheduled inspections to meet this requirement. Even if your pool fencing has previously been inspected and deemed to be compliant, we are still required to carry out scheduled inspections at least once every three years to ensure that compliance is being maintained.
Charges for scheduled pool fencing inspections
We began scheduled pool fencing inspections in early 2016, in preparation for the new legislation coming into effect from 1 January 2017, which changed the way pool fencing was regulated and inspected. The change meant that Local Authorities are now legally responsible for ensuring that all pool fencing within its jurisdiction is recorded on a register and meets compliance.
In 2016 we decided that scheduled pool fencing inspections would be undertaken at no cost to the pool owner, with all costs borne by council. This approach was maintained until all pool fencing had been inspected and brought to a compliant standard.
The Act requires inspections to be undertaken at least once every 3 years (within 6 months either side of the last inspection) to ensure the ongoing safety of pool fencing, particularly pool gates, as the fencing can fail or deteriorate over time. To cover the cost of this ongoing inspection requirement, we now make a reasonable charge to pool owners for the scheduled inspections.
A scheduled pool fencing inspection fee, currently set at $160.00 will be charged at the time of the inspection, once the pool fencing on your property has been deemed fully compliant.
Does my swimming pool need to be fenced?
If your pool has a depth of water of 400mm or more and is normally used or intended to be used for swimming, paddling or bathing etc, then it must have compliant pool fencing. This includes temporary or portable pools which are only erected during Summer months.
You do not need pool fencing if:
- The swimming pool sits above ground with smooth vertical side walls that are a minimum 1200mm high, and with no permanent steps, objects, projections or surfaces that could enable a small child under 5 years to climb into the pool.
- The depth of water in the pool is maintained at less than 400mm (such as a shallow paddling pool or an empty swimming pool). Note: A responsible adult should supervise the use of small children’s paddling pools at all times.
- 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?
Pool fencing must fully enclose the immediate pool area and must prevent young children under 5 years from moving directly into the pool area from the dwelling, any other buildings, gardens or any other parts of the property.
- The pool fence must be at least 1200mm high at every point around the entire length of the outside of the fence, with no permanent steps, objects, projections or surfaces that could enable a small child under 5 years to climb into the pool
- Any perforated material (trellis, mesh or netting) must have no gaps or spaces greater than 13mm for fences up to 1200mm high, 35mm for fences up to 1800mm high, or 50mm for fences over 1800mm high.
- Any horizontal or angled supports such as rails, rods or wires, located on the outside of the fence must be at least 900mm apart, or be made non-climbable, for example with the installation of a 60° angled fillet to the top surface of a horizontal rail, to negate any potential foothold.
- There must be no permanent climbable surface, object or projection located within a 1200mm arc measured from the top of the fence that may assist a small child under 5 years to access the pool and there must be no gaps or spaces greater than 100mm within or under the fence.
Pool fencing on a Boundary
- A boundary fence may act as an effective pool fence, providing it meets legislative requirements. There must be nothing on the neighbour’s side, such as stored materials, close horizontal rails etc. that a small child under 5 years could use to scale the fence.
- If the fence is on a boundary and the neighbour’s side cannot be made compliant, then so long as the barrier is a minimum of 1800mm high on the inside (pool side) it may still achieve compliance by applying the provisions of the new Code F9. To do so, the fence must have a 900mm clear zone on the inside of the barrier, with no surface, object or projection that might provide a climb down and so provide an opportunity for a small child to scale the fence internally. Such a fence would need to be located at least 1000mm from the water’s edge to prevent a small child jumping directly into the pool. Note: This ‘internal compliance’ standard is mandatory on new pool fencing located on boundaries and installed since 1 January 2017.
Gates in the Fence
- All pool gates must only open outwards and swing away from the pool.
- All pool gates must be fitted with self-closing hinges or other durable mechanism that automatically closes the gate from a static start in any open position, and cleanly engages and retains the latch.
- Any latch accessible from the outside must be located at least 1500mm above the outside ground level, and any external surfaces or projections such as decks, planter boxes etc. to keep them out of reach of small children under 5 years.
- Any internal latch must not be accessible by reaching over or through the gate, unless the top of the gate or any hole in the gate is at least 1200mm above outside ground level.
- If access to the latch may be possible through any gap or space in the gate or fence below 1200mm, such as through an open bar aluminium gate, it must be shielded by compliant cover.
- There must be no object, projection or device near to the gate that could be used to hold it open.
Can the walls of a building act as a ‘pool fence’?
The wall of a dwelling, or any other building may form part of the pool fence, if it complies with the relevant legislation.
- For swimming pools installed before 1 January 2017, all doors that provide direct access into the immediate pool area must be fitted with a high-level locking device, AND a contact alarm which sounds immediately when the door is opened. Both the locking device and the contact alarm must be located at least 1500mm above the internal floor level.
- For swimming pools installed after 1 January 2017, all doors that provide direct access into the immediate pool area must be restricted to no more than 1000mm opening, must be fitted with an automatic latching device located above 1500mm from indoor floor level. In addition, such doors must have EITHER an alarm which meets the specific standards of Code F9/AS1 OR be fitted with an automatic closing device, which effectively closes and automatically latches the door after you have passed through.
- All windows which open into the immediate pool area, and with an internal sill height of less than 1000mm, must be fitted with a device to restrict them from opening more than 100mm, OR be fitted with a shielding device to the whole window, such as a strong fixed mesh screen, to restrict the passage of small children under 5 years.
What is the ‘immediate pool area’?
The immediate pool area is not defined by ‘area’ as such, but by the contents of the area, or the activities undertaken within the area in relation to the use of the pool. This may include a pump shed, change rooms, decking or paving, pool furniture and a barbecue/outdoor dining area etc. The immediate pool area should not be a thoroughfare, include access to the main door of the dwelling, other outbuildings, or accommodate other outdoor features or activities such as clotheslines, vegetable gardens, pet housing, children’s play areas or play equipment.
What about spa pools and lockable spa pool covers?
Spa pools and hot tubs are now deemed to be ‘small heated pools’ and compliant child resistant covers are deemed to be a lawful pool safety barrier, so long as certain performance criteria are met. The pool cover must:
- restrict the entry of children when closed
- be able to withstand a reasonably foreseeable load
- be able to be readily returned to the closed position
- have signage indicating its child safety features.
However, these criteria can only be applied when the top surface of every wall of the small heated pool is at all points not less than 760mm above the adjacent ground or deck, and the walls of the pool inhibit climbing. In addition, there must be no surfaces, objects or protrusions within 760mm, measured in an arc from the top of the small heated pool, which may enable a small child under 5 years to access the pool.
Last Reviewed: 15/03/2021