Pool Fencing Issues in Auckland City

Currently swimming pool owners in Auckland City with existing compliances three years old are being told they no longer comply. For 13 years now there has been talk about changing the law.
On 5 June I wrote to Hon Dr Nick Smith expressing my concerns.
I was advised he will respond as soon as possible.
Here are the details sent to him.

“June 2015
FOSPA Summary Gary Osborne, Chairman POAG (Pool Owners Action Group)

1987 Fencing of Swimming Pools Act 1987
“An Act to promote the safety of young children by requiring the fencing of certain swimming pools.”
Although well intentioned the Act was poorly worded and open to much interpretation.
Aug 1999 Guidelines for Territorial Authorities. –Ministry of Internal Affairs
“Water Safety NZ has stats showing that drownings of children under
six years old have decreased since the introduction of the Act.”
2000 In particular WCC (Waitakere City Council) embarked upon a rigorous
inspection campaign of swimming pools.
Many owners were distressed to find Council Officers had visited their
properties unannounced during normal working hours.
2001 Complaints were arising in Waitakere with arguments about tables and
chairs and BBQs in the pool area and the size of the “immediate pool
area.” Many owners were pushed to have isolation pool fencing.
2002 I had a lengthy meeting with the Minister of Local Government, Hon
Chris Carter at which I expressed my concerns to him. He agreed there
was a need for revision of the Act.
I had expensive alterations done to my own pool fencing
and Neville Exler, WCC pool officer, came on site to discuss the work
with my workman before the work proceeded.
2003 Complaints about Pool Officers in Waitakere were growing at a fast rate.
Despite the work already completed, I along with many other Waitakere
Pool owners, received a prosecution notice. POAG formed to take a class
action against WCC in the District Court. WCC maintained its stance
was correct and decided to seek a Declaratory Judgment in the High
Court.
All impending prosecutions were withdrawn.
2 Aug 2004 High Court Hearing. Judgment reserved by Judge Randerson.
During the hearing Judge Randerson commented “A little common sense
on the part of pool officers may avoid the need for a plethora of
exemption applications in the future.”
1 Oct 2004 Every aspect of Declaratory Judgment sought by WCC, ACC and
Rodney DC was rejected. Costs of $20,000 were awarded to POAG.
12 Oct 2004 Following the Randerson judgment I wrote to Hon Chris Carter stressing
the need for legislative reform.
2 Nov 2014 Hon Chris Carter advised me “The administration of this Act will
transfer to the new Department of Building and Housing in February
2006. Accordingly I have sent a copy of your letter to the Minister of
Housing for his information.”
Mar 2005 I published a book entitled “Sitting on the Fence” which gave some
background leading up to the Randerson judgment.
Nov 2005 Hon Tau Henare, MP, attended a meeting of POAG and listened to
various members’ concerns. He followed up with a letter to the Local
Government and Environment Select Committee urging a review of the
Act.
Feb 2006 Admin of FOSPA transferred from Dept of Internal Affairs to Dept of
Building & Housing.
3 Nov 2006 NZS 8500 approved by Standards Council with intention of replacing
Schedule to FOSPA.
16 Sep 2010 With the Auckland “Super City” fast approaching, I sent the following
questionnaire to the CEO’s of all Legacy Councils.
“Since the Randerson judgment in October 2004
1. How many prosecutions has COUNCIL NAME taken against pool owners?
2. How many have been successful?
3. How many exemption applications have there been from pool owners?
4. How many have been successful?
5. What meetings have taken place to ensure exemptions will be honoured when Auckland Council takes effect on 1 November 2010?
6. Will any prosections be initiated between today and 1 November 2010?
7. What steps have been taken to ensure consistency on 1 November 2010?
Answers to Questions 1-4 are set out here:
WCC 814 814 348 348
ACC 106 38 8 6
PDC 1 1 1 0
NSCC 1 1 0 0
RDC 0 0 ? 55
MCC 0 0 0 0
19 Jan 2011 I had a meeting with Doug McKay, Chief Executive, Auckland Council,
expressing my concern over the administration of FOSPA.
Mar 2011 Doug McKay advised me I would be invited by Ian McCormick and
Bob de Leur to join “a pool advisory group giving Council practical and
common sense advice on pool policy and interpretations and represent
owners views.”
From Day 1 I stressed the need for 3 C’s –
consistency,certainty,common sense
I was disappointed to find out at our first meeting every Local Board was
to set up its own exemption committee. This did not augur well for
consistency.
Feb 2012 Submissions were sent from the Committee to Parliament
2013 We were assured existing exemptions and compliances would be
honoured and there would be no retrospective legislation.
28 Nov 2013 Press Release. Hon Maurice Williamson “Pool law changes will save
lives.”

WHAT HAS HAPPENED SINCE THE INCEPTION OF THE SUPER CITY?
Recently pool owners have complained to me that pools previously deemed compliant are now being deemed not so.
Concerns are being expressed over the size of “the immediate pool area”.
Arguments are developing over what the pool area could be used for rather than what it is used for.
There are suggestions of a push for “isolation pool fencing”.
Some owners with doors from the house with top bolts that were previously accepted are now being told they must install self-closers.
Expensive exemption fees ($450) are being sought from pool owners whose pools passed previous inspections.
Council officers refuse to discuss problems on site and are often vague as to why perceived faults do not comply with the Act.
In short, the sorts of complaints that arose in Waitakere City prior to the Randerson judgment, now seem to be resurfacing in Auckland City.”

It appears we are returning to a climate for pool owners similar to the one that existed in Waitakere City shortly after the turn of the century.

For more information on POAG see http://www.poag.org.nz

If you wish to join POAG phone Gary Osborne 09 834 4513

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1 Response to Pool Fencing Issues in Auckland City

  1. Westy says:

    As council prioritises daylighting of urban streams including within schools – this is the advise on Council’s website when it applies to there own responsibilities: Managing Urban Streams: “Keeping children safe – Educating your children is the best way to reduce the risk posed by streams.If you choose to fence off your stream, it’s best to erect the fence outside of the floodplain area, and parallel to the flow of the stream. A wire fence is better than a solid barrier, as timber fences or brick walls can obstruct the flow of water and create a flood risk.” It just seems like hypocrisy that the pool laws should be increasing when this is the advise they give regarding other waterways including those on Council land. Also the city Waterfront where there is no fencing and it goes straight into deep ocean . Just no consistency at all.

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