Pool Fencing Background

The fencing of swimming pools issue has been a festering sore for a number of years.

In 1987 retrospective legislation was introduced into New Zealand requiring pool owners to fence their pools in a certain way. Many pool owners went to considerable expense erecting new fencing or altering their existing fencing to comply with the requirements of their local Council.

In 1999 the Department of Internal Affairs issued new guidelines to Territorial Authorities on the interpretation of the Act. Some Councils, such as Waitakere City Council, overreacted and had a team of pool officers who started insisting on requirements way beyond the Act. Many people with compliant pools were told their pools no longer complied but the reasons given were often vague and non-specific.

In the case of WCC pool owners were told it was now illegal to have tables and chairs or BBQs in the pool area. Indeed WCC had sought independent legal advice on that matter but chose to ignore the advice given. Over a period of 3 years WCC issued 644 prosecution notices against pool owners. By the end of 2003 a group of mainly-WCC pool owners pooled together to take a class action against the Council. A number of POAG (Pool Owners Action Group) members appeared on the Holmes show but the Council was “confident of its stance” and sought a declaratory judgment in the High Court. Every aspect of the judgment sought by WCC, was rejected by Judge Randerson, and POAG was awarded $20,000 costs.

In November 2004 an exemption regime was set up by WCC. When a Councillor asked how many people were involved the reply given was “a handful”. Between 1987 and 2004 only two exemption applications had been processed and both were denied. Costs were $300 application fee and $375/hour hearing costs.

The new regime was to charge $250 per application with no hearing costs and those in the know soon found out application fees were waived if the applicant applied for them to be waived. Since 2004, 339 exemptions have been applied for and 339 exemptions have been granted.

It now seems Auckland City Council is embarking on a campaign similar to that of WCC in the early 2000s. Although there have been numerous calls from different mayors for changes to the law, the law remains the same as it was in 1987. People with notices of compliance are sick of being told every two to three years that their compliance notice is no longer valid due to a new interpretation of the law or a “mistake” by a previous pool inspector. They are put to considerable expense to avoid facing a Council prosecution. It’s high time pool owners were allowed some certainty  rather than being put through expensive hurdles every two or three years to satisfy the whims of capricious Council pool officers.

The catchcry is always “The safety of our children is paramount” yet Councils don’t exact the same standards upon themselves with their various stormwater drains and stormwater ponds etc.