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New rules for swimming pools

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The cumbersome and often confusing pool fencing rules are being revamped.

A more workable, effective and less-bureaucratic regime on the fencing of swimming pools is being promoted in the Building (Pools) Amendment Bill, open for submissions until November 5 2015 with the government administration select committee.

It replaces the well-intentioned, but often ambiguous Fencing of Swimming Pools Act 1987 introduced when an average of 10 children aged under 5 were drowning each year in residential swimming pools.

Though fatalities have been reduced to about 3 annually, the law has proved to be cumbersome for pool owners and local councils. There is inconsistency in its application and it is seen as excessively prescriptive.

Problems cited by Small Business Minister Craig Foss include differing interpretations on fencing spa pools, garden pools and stormwater retention ponds; conflicting requirements on pool barriers; and inconsistency in the regularity of inspections.

The Bill will exclude spa pools and hot tubs from separate fencing when they have child-resistant covers. Fences will no longer be the sole means of restricting access - rather, any barrier will be permitted that meets the performance base standards of the building code.

Safety requirements will not apply to garden ponds and stormwater retention ponds associated with homes. Retailers and manufacturers will be required to inform purchasers of pools of their legal obligations on child safety and councils will be obliged to make five-yearly inspections.

Thanks to Neale McMillan from the Mercantile Gazette for this article.

For advice on issues around swimming pool fencing and safety standards please contact Lara Blomfield or Nathan Gray.