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Swimming pool safety barriers

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As a pool owner, you have many responsibilities to ensure your pool is safe for those who use it. One of those responsibilities is ensuring your swimming pool has an appropriate pool safety barrier.

Are you purchasing an above-ground/temporary pool?

If the side walls are below 1.2m high, it will require a pool safety barrier.

FAQs for portable pools

Need more certainty about the pool on your property? Email our pool compliance team at pools@tauranga.govt.nz.

Does my swimming pool need to have a pool safety barrier?

Any pool or spa normally used for swimming, paddling, or bathing that is capable of holding a depth of water of 40cm or more, is required to have a physical barrier that restricts access to the pool by unsupervised children under 5 years of age.

Below is a list of common pool types that require a barrier. This list is not exhaustive, and if you are unsure, you should check with your local council if a barrier is required.

  • Inflatable, portable and temporary pools – these are treated in the same way as other residential pools. They must have barriers that restrict unsupervised access by young children if they can hold water to a depth of 40cm or more and have water in them (even if the pools is only partially filled). Regardless of how much water is in the pool, if the height of the pool is 40cm or more, it will require a barrier.
  • Outdoor pools – pools that are filled or partially filled are required to have a physical barrier to restrict access by unsupervised children under the age of 5 years. This applies to both in-ground and above-ground pools.
  • Above-ground pools – there are some situations where the walls of a pool can form the barrier to the pool. These are explained in acceptable solution F9/AS1 section 2.3.1. However, any ladder used to access a pool with 120cm sides must have an enclosing barrier and gate around it.
  • Indoor pools – young children are at risk if they have unrestricted access to pools whether the pool is inside or outside. Therefore, indoor residential pools are now subject to the same barrier requirements as other residential pools. For example, children must not be able to readily open the doors to the pool room. Pool room doors need to be self-closing or have an alarm.
  • Inflatable spa pools – you are likely to need to fence your inflatable hot tub or spa pool. This is because only a pool that meets all the criteria for ‘small, heated pools’ is able to use a cover as a barrier – most inflatable pools do not have covers that meet the requirements, so they will need to be fenced, even if they are temporary.

What sort of pool safety barrier does my pool need ?

Pool safety barriers must fully enclose the immediate pool area. They must prevent young children under five years old from moving directly into the pool area from the dwelling, buildings, gardens or other parts of the property.

  • The pool safety barrier must be at least 1200mm high at every point around the entire length of the outside of the pool safety barrier, with no permanent steps, objects, projections or surfaces that could enable a small child under five years old to climb into the pool.
  • Any perforated material (mesh or netting) must have no gaps or spaces greater than 13mm for pool safety barriers up to 1200mm high, 35mm for pool safety barriers up to 1800mm high, or 50mm for barriers over 1800mm high.
  • Any horizontal or angled supports, such as rails, rods or wires, located on the outside of the pool safety barrier must be at least 900mm apart. 
  • There must be no permanent climbable surface, object or projection located within a 1200mm arc measured from the top of the safety barrier that may assist a small child under five years old to access the pool, and there must be no gaps or spaces greater than 100mm within or under the safety barrier.

All pool safety barriers require a building consent

Important Note:

All swimming pool safety barriers must only be installed under an approved building consent. Whilst some swimming pools with less than 35,000 litres of water capacity may now be exempted from the requirement for a building consent, ALL pool safety barriers must only be installed under an approved consent, regardless of whether the pool itself is exempt or needs to be consented.

All pool safety barriers restricting access to residential swimming pools are now subject to new requirements under the Building Act 2004. These changes took effect on 1 January 2017. All pool safety barriers 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 safety barrier remains compliant with the previous legislation (the Fencing of Swimming Pools Act 1987), it will still be considered compliant with section 162C. Any new pool safety barrier installed after 1 January 2017 must meet the functionality and performance requirements of the new Building Code F9 to meet section 162C.

The Building Act also now places a requirement on Local Authorities to ensure that all pool safety barriers within its jurisdiction are compliant, and Tauranga City Council undertakes scheduled inspections to meet this requirement. Even if your pool safety barriers have previously been inspected and deemed compliant, we are still required to carry out scheduled inspections at least once every three years to ensure that compliance is maintained.

Pool safety barriers located on a residential boundary

  • A barrier located on a residential boundary may act as an effective pool safety barrier, providing it meets legislative requirements.
  • Pool safety barriers on any boundary, and installed prior to 1 January 2017, must be a minimum 1.2m in height externally, and there must be a minimum 900mm clear zone on the outside of the barrier, with no surface, object or projection that might provide an opportunity for a small child to scale or negotiate the barrier externally.
  • If the barrier is located on a residential boundary, and is potentially climbable externally, it can still comply if it is a minimum of 1.8 high on the inside of the barrier (pool side) and there is a minimum 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 or negotiate the barrier internally. Such a barrier would need to be located at least 1.0m away from the water’s edge of the pool to prevent a small child from jumping directly into the pool from the top of the barrier.

Note: this ‘internal compliance’ standard is mandatory on new pool safety barriers located on residential boundaries and installed since 1 January 2017. However, this ‘internal compliance’ standard need not necessarily be applied to barriers located on a road reserve or recreation reserve boundary, given that it is extremely unlikely that anything might be built or stored against the barrier on the reserve side. However, this would need to be approved as an appropriate ‘alternative solution’ under the necessary building consent process. 

Gates in the pool safety barrier

  • 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 mechanisms 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 five 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 barrier below 1200mm, such as through an open bar aluminium gate, it must be shielded by a compliant cover.
  • There must be no object, projection or device near the gate that could be used to hold it open.

Can the walls of a building act as a ‘pool safety barrier’?

The wall of a dwelling or any other building with a residential component, which opens directly into the immediate pool area, may form part of the pool safety barrier if it complies with the relevant legislation.

  • For swimming pools installed before 1 January 2017, any door that opens directly into the immediate pool area must be fitted with a high-level locking device or latching device, which must be located at a minimum 1500mm above the indoor floor level, and so out of reach of a small child under five years old.
  • For swimming pools installed after 1 January 2017, any door that opens directly into the immediate pool area must be restricted to no more than 1000mm opening and must be fitted with an automatic latching device located at a minimum 1500mm above the indoor floor level.
  • In addition, for swimming pools installed after 1 January 2017, such doors must have either an audible warning device (alarm) that meets the specific operational criteria of the Building Code F9/AS1 OR be fitted with an automatic closing device, which effectively closes and automatically latches the door after you have passed through.
  • Any window in the wall of a building that opens directly into the immediate pool area, and with a sill height of less than 1.0m from the indoor floor level, 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 fixed solid mesh screen, OR be designed or constructed to effectively restrict the passage of a small child under five years old.

What is the ‘immediate pool area’?

The immediate pool area is not defined by ‘area’ 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, barbecue/outdoor dining area, etc. The immediate pool area should not be a thoroughfare, include access to the main door of the dwelling, other buildings, 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 ‘small heated pools’, and compliant child-resistant covers are considered a lawful pool safety barrier, so long as specific 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 five years to access the pool.

Charges for scheduled pool safety barrier inspections

We began scheduled pool safety barrier inspections in early 2016 in preparation for the new legislation coming into effect from 1 January 2017, which changed how pool safety barriers were regulated and inspected. The change meant that Local Authorities are now legally responsible for ensuring that all pool safety barriers within their jurisdiction are recorded on a register and meet compliance.

In 2016 we decided that scheduled pool safety barrier inspections would be undertaken at no cost to the pool owner, with all costs borne by council. This approach was maintained until all pool safety barriers had been inspected and brought to a compliant standard.

The Act requires inspections to be undertaken at least once every three years (within six months on either side of the last inspection) to ensure the ongoing safety of pool safety barriers, particularly pool gates, as the pool safety barrier can fail or deteriorate over time. To cover the cost of this ongoing inspection requirement, a scheduled pool safety barrier inspection fee is $165.00 and will be involved after the first inspection regardless of a pass or fail, and any re-inspections will require a further inspection fee to the paid. Our main focus throughout this process is pool safety. Under Schedule 1 of the Building Act, repairs and maintenance may not require a building consent provided it meets all of the conditions of the exemption. If new work is required to achieve compliance, this is likely to require a building consent, and our officers can advise at the time of inspection.

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