Twenty years ago, Waitakere City Council (WCC), following new interpretations of the 1987 Fencing of Swimming Pools Act, embarked upon a campaign whereby prosecutions were threatened against owners of compliant pools for such things as having tables and chairs and BBQs in the immediate pool area. A number of pool owners banded together and in 2003 POAG (Pool Owners Action Group) was formed to take a class action against WCC in the District Court. Instead WCC, confident of its stance, wanted to seek a declaratory judgment in the High Court. Our lawyer advised us we were probably best to accept WCC’s suggestion, otherwise it was highly likely that if they lost in the District Court, they would appeal the case to the High Court and drain us of funds. In 2004 every aspect of WCC’s declaratory judgment was lost and POAG was awarded $20,000 costs. Our legal fees were $40,000. Judge Randerson pointed out that contradictions between the Building Act and the FOSPA (Fencing of Swimming Pools Act, 1987) were unhelpful.
In 2011 I was invited by Auckland Council (the new Supercity Council) to join an external working party charged with looking at workable solutions to eliminate contradictions between the Building Act and FOSPA. I served on that committee for 5 years without pay. I constantly emphasised the need for three C’s —consistency, certainty and common sense.
On 1/1/17 the Building (Pools) Amendment Act took effect. We were told one of the aims was to reduce compliance costs for pool owners. The new law provides for 3 yearly inspections of pool fencing.
On 9/5/19 my pool was inspected. The visit lasted 15 minutes but I noted it was billed as 80 minutes “duration”. Upon questioning this I was told this was largely due to traffic on the North Shore. I complained to my two councillors, Linda Cooper and Penny Hulse, and a week later received an email from Julie Lardner (AC) saying the $128 covered costs such as wages, vehicles, fuel, IT equipment, uniforms, buildings etc. I was told this was a service which had to be “user pays”.
On 18/5/19 I put 9 questions to AC as a LGOIMA request.
On 1/6/19 my wife received an unsigned arrears notice from AC 19 dated 27 May.
On 11/6/19 AC advised me my request was denied. That same day an unsigned letter was sent to my wife by AC threatening her credit rating.
On 17/6/19 I complained to the Ombudsman.
On 8/9/19 my wife received another unsigned threatening letter from AC. “Final Notice.”
On 20/9/19 the Ombudsman advised me to lodge a formal complaint with S Town (CE, AC). I did so.
On 18/11/19 I received an email from S Town saying he had instructed staff to reactivate my invoice. Since then I have contacted the Ombudsman and received an assurance there will be no further action on my invoice until the Ombudsman has responded.
To date I have sought details of income and expenditure in council accounts relating to pool fencing inspections but they have not been very cooperative. I await a response from the Ombudsman.