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Residential Swimming PoolsNgā puna kaukau

The requirements and responsibilities of being a pool owner with particular regard to Fencing.

Residential Swimming Pools

Building owners with pools on site must put barriers around pools to restrict under-five-year-olds from unsupervised access. This is to protect vulnerable children from the risk of drowning.

Most drownings involve pools owners’ children or visitors rather than wandering children.

In recognition of the young children’s extreme vulnerability around pools, our Building Consents team take extra care and time when processing pool consents. We do this to ensure pool barrier design meets the safety levels required under the Building Code Clause F9.

The term “barrier” replaced “fence” when the Building (Pools) Amendment Act repealed the Fencing of Swimming Pools Act. This recognises a fence is not the only way to restrict children gaining access to a pool.

Pools are required to have a suitable barrier restricting access to the pool by under-five-year-olds.  Restrictions around what can be contained within the pool barrier (immediate pool area) are also in place.

Preventing residential pool-related injury or death among young children is the key goal of Building Code Clause F9 – Means of Restricting Access to Residential Pools. This legislation applies to all residential pools with a maximum water depth of at least 400mm, whether they are filled, or partly filled, with water.

Swimming Pools before 2017
Swimming pools after 2017
pool fencing

A private swimming or spa pool is a significant asset for the home.  It becomes the centre of activities in summer; the place for the family to sit around in the evenings or when friends come over for a BBQ. 

Sadly, it can also be a deadly danger for small children and a significant number of toddlers have drowned in private swimming and spa pools. 

Although you may not have small children or grandchildren yourself, perhaps the children of relatives or friends may visit you.  (Often, the children who drown in private pools live on or are invited visitors to the property).

Parliament decided there is no reason for children to continue to fall into private pools and drown, or suffer brain damage and this can almost entirely be avoided by adequate fencing. The Building Act 20016 is the law that requires a barrier around your pool.

Pool owners and people, including tenants, with pools on their property, all have duties under the Act. Pool owners must tell the Council if they have a pool or are intending to get or build a pool.  A building consent is required and barriers around all pools must be installed to the standard set out in the Act. If a pool does not have a barrier to this standard, the owner must ensure that the pool is kept empty.

Persons renting or leasing a house with a pool must ensure the pool is empty if it does not have barriers that complies with the Act.

Council is required to take all reasonable steps to make sure that the Act is complied with.

If a pool is kept empty, barriers must be erected to prevent falling.

Pool barriers must fully enclose the pool area and it should prevent young children from getting into the pool area from any part of the property.

A boundary fence can make up part of your pool barrier, providing it meets compliance requirements.

  • A minimum of 1.2m in height and at least 1.2m above any permanent object (e.g. decking) that is within 1.2m of the barrier.
  • Where the barrier is made up of perforated material, netting, or mesh, and contains holes more than 10mm wide, the barrier must be at least 1.8m high.
  • The space between the bottom of the barrier and the ground must not exceed 100mm.
  • Be built of a durable material that cannot readily be crossed by children under five years old.
  • Barriers made of vertical poles must be spaced within 100mm of each adjacent vertical pole.
  • All barrier supports, rails, and bracing which are not vertical shall be inaccessible for climbing from the outside of the fencing/barrier.
  • A barrier made of perforated material, mesh, or netting must not have holes bigger than 50mm wide and the material must be firmly attached to a rail at the top and bottom of the barrier/fencing.
  • Gates are to be self closing, open outwards from the pool, and be clear of anything likely to hold them open.  A self locking catch must be attached at least 1.5m high if on the outside of the barrier, and incapable of being unlocked by pulling, lifting, or pushing on the gate.
  • When a building forms part of a barrier, the door in the building must have a lock preventing that door from being readily opened by children under the age of five years.

Any gates and doors need to open away from the pool. Every gate needs to be fitted with a self-closing and self-latching device that closes/latches from a static start of 15cm.
The outside latches must be at least 1500mm above the ground and the inside latch must not be accessible by reaching through the gate unless the hole in the gate is at a minimum height of 1200mm above ground/finished floor level.

There must be no object near the gate that could hold it open. 

The wall of a building may form part of the barrier if it complies with the Building Act 2016. 
Any doors that provide direct access to the pool must be self-closing and self-latching, and must be fitted with a locking device at least 1500mm from floor level or an approved alarm.

They can't be fitted with any device that can hold them open.
Windows lower than 1200mm from the inside floor must be fitted with limiters that prevent the windows opening more than 100mm. 

It may not include such things as a clothes line, play equipment or a vegetable garden.

A secure boundary fence is not, on its own, sufficient.  It would not comply with the Act.  However, subject to strict conditions, part of a boundary fence may be used as a part of a pool fence/ barrier.

If a boundary fence is made use of, there is a danger that a neighbour may unwittingly make the barrier unsafe.  For example, the neighbour may stack timber against the barrier so that it becomes easy for a child to climb over the pool area.

There are existing pools, which were built prior to the Act coming into force.  These were often subject to a bylaw which only required that the property itself be adequately fenced.

This reflected the view at the time, that the greatest danger arose through children straying onto a property.  This does happen, but later research in New Zealand and overseas has shown that the majority of accidents happen to the children of pool owners or of their legitimate visitors.

Therefore, the Act requires all pools be fenced to the standard set by it.

Pool owners can apply to the Council for an exemption from the Act.  The Council, in granting an exemption, could specify certain conditions that the pool or property must meet. The Council can only grant an exemption or a special condition if this would provide equal or better protection.

Lockable spa pool covers do not comply with the Fencing of Swimming Pools Act, so spa pools must also have a barrier/ fence. Unfenced spa pools fitted with lockable covers must have a special exemption from the Council.

The definition of a temporary or pop up pool is a pool you buy for the purpose of only being up for a short period of time or for the hottest months of summer and then is packed away again until next time. No Building consent is required as it is not a permanent structure.

The same risks remain in having a temporary pool up over the summer period as there is with a permanent pool. Please read the requirements under the Building Act to give you a good outline of what is required.

Government legislation states that all pools are required to be fully fenced, the only exceptions are where

  • the pool is small and holds less than of 400mm of water OR
  • ​the sides of the pool are 1.2 metres high at all points around the pool from the outside ground level AND
  • the sides of the pool are smooth, so a child under the age of six years cannot get a toe hold to pull themselves up to the top level of the pool AND
  • there is a 1.2 metre clear zone around the pool, this means there isn't anything around the pool a child under the age of six years can climb on, stand on, jump from, drag to the side of the pool etc, to get into the pool
  • the means of entering the pool is fully fenced/enclosed, stored away from the pool or even in the pool at all times when the pool is not in use.

If your temporary pool doesn't comply with the above exceptions, then it is required to be properly fenced to the requirements of the Building Act 20016.

Owners must have their pools or pool barriers checked either by Council or an independently qualified pool inspector every three years to ensure pool barriers are maintained.

The Code states if you are a pool owner, you must not only ensure your pool has suitable barriers, but you must also maintain that barrier. This means you must repair or replace any hinges on gates and catches or latches when broken. You must also fix door alarms or self-closers as soon as they stop working.

It also means you should not remove any catches or stays required to be installed on doors and windows.

All pools require Building Consents unless they are specifically exempt.

The Building Code changes mean a wider range of pools, including indoor pools, must comply with Clause F9. The definitions apply to anywhere people live, not just houses.

The Code states if you are a pool owner, you must not only ensure your pool has suitable barriers, but you must also maintain that barrier. This means you must repair or replace any hinges on gates and catches or latches when broken. You must also fix door alarms or self-closers as soon as they stop working.

It also means you should not remove any catches or stays required to be installed on doors and windows.

All pools require Building Consents unless they are specifically exempt.

You need Building Consent before constructing any type of pool barrier. (The pool itself may also need consent depending on the size of the pool).

In the same way, if you want to change or reposition the barrier (other than maintenance) you also require a building consent.

If you rent or lease a property that has pool but no suitable pool barrier, you must keep the pool empty.

Some small heated pools such as spa pools or hot tubs do not require a barrier or building consent. The Code’s definition of small heated pools includes those:

  • with a water surface area of 5m² or less, and
  • designed for therapeutic or recreational use.

The height of the edge of the pool is to be no less than 760mm; and the lid must be lockable, have limited movement and must be able to carry a specified weight.

All private swimming pools need to be fenced unless:

  • The maximum depth is 400 mm or less.
  • The walls of the pool are 1.2 metres or more above the ground with no steps, hand holds or projections enabling a child to climb into the pool.

You need to complete an application form and provide drawings and relevant specifications, in particular for the pool barrier (as with all building consent applications).

You need to provide details for:

  • post foundations,
  • heights of rails,
  • gaps (both between rails, and between the top rail to the top of the fence),
  • site plans,
  • how the gate(s) will self-close and self-latch and
  • if you are using a building to form part of the barrier you will need to provide details for doors or windows that give access to the pool and, where relevant, any decks that overhang the pool.

Including photos often assist Council’s decisions for consent applications.


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