Thursday, September 23, 2010

When is enough enough?

Pool fencing controversy in Auckland has been around for over ten years.

After the drowning of an 18 month old boy in Parnell in 1997 and a subsequent lawsuit against Auckland City Council which ended in a cash settlement and council apology for shortcomings in their pool fencing enforcement, many regional authorities embarked on concerted efforts to ensure that private pools were adequately protected. This was traumatic and costly for many pool owners who were suddenly required to install fencing never anticipated in the layout of their properties.

Waitakere City proved particularly draconian in this regard, sparking a minor uprising in that jurisdiction. The POAG was born from that unrest as a group of pool owners banded together in a protest which culminated in the 2004 Hickman vs.Waitakere City high court decision. The 'Randerson' declaratory judgement at least partially clarified a number of issues which had been especially contentious.

POAG, and pool owners in general, considered the Randerson judgement a step in the right direction, and the Waitakere Council from then on did adopt a more balanced and reasnable enforcement approach. Although there remain a number of disputed rulings, Waitakere City is reported to have granted all 339 of the exemption applications submitted to it since 'Randerson'.

At this writing it is Auckland City that has caught the missionary bug and over recent years there have been numerous heavy handed and arbitrary rulings by ACC.  Requirements have changed year to year, forcing previously compliant owners to jump through new hoops, with no assurance against additional demands next time around.  As time wears on so does the patience of pool owners with many concluding that enough is enough.

As the Auckland Super City begins the process of amalgamation, POAG believes now is precisely the time for a concerted effort to ensure the new fencing regime resolves the disparate approaches of the individual districts to form a practical and predictable process --- one that attends to child safety without unduly impacting private property rights or our enviable New Zealand outdoor lifestyle.

We are interested in hearing of other experiences, good and bad, in Auckland and elsewhere, as we work to protect pool owner's property rights and to strongly encourage councils and our national legislators to adopt realistic approaches to pool safety for young children.

Note: Comments can be added by clicking the column head  "When is enough enough?" or the tally of "comments" at the  bottom of the post.