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Swimming and spa pools

Pools are great fun, but can be dangerous for our tamariki, so here's what you need to do to make your pool safe.

New pool safety legislation

New pool safety legislation came into effect on 1 January 2017. The Building (Pools) Amendment Act 2016 repealed the Fencing of Swimming Pools Act 1987.

The Amendment Act includes new pool safety provisions in the Building Act 2004 and creates clause F9 Restricting access to residential pools.

Under these rules all swimming pools must:

  • have a physical barrier that restricts access to the pool; and
  • be inspected every three years.

These requirements apply to pools with a depth of 400 mm or more.

Swimming pool barrier inspections

Councils are required to inspect swimming pools barriers at least every three years. We will contact you in writing to arrange an inspection at your property. You will need to have an adult present for this inspection however if that’s impractical please let us know and we will arrange another appointment. 

Spa pools

The new law no longer requires spa pools to be fenced. Spa pools can use lockable lids as a barrier as long as:

  • the pool has walls at least 760 mm high and can’t be climbed
  • the water surface area is 5 square  metres or less
  • the cover is capable of supporting a load of a least 20kg
  • you can secure the cover with straps fitted with lockable snap fasteners or a fastener that is locked with a padlock
  • you have signage that states in black letters not less than 5 mm in height ‘WARNING: This spa pool cover must be kept locked except when under adult supervision’.

Your responsibilities as a pool owner have changed. Pool safety barriers are now regulated by Section 162 (A to E) of the Building Act 2004 and the new clause F9 Restricting access to residential pools which took effect from 1 January 2017. 

The new Act requires that Council inspect pool barriers at least every three years to make sure they comply. So we will need to inspect all pool safety barriers in this scheduled inspection programme even if they’ve previously been inspected and approved.

If your pool has a minimum water depth of 400mm, it must have safety barriers.

 Barriers aren’t needed:

  • If the pool sits above ground with smooth vertical walls 1.2m or more high, with no permanent steps or objects that would let a small child climb into the pool.
  • If the pool is less than 400mm deep (such as a shallow paddling pool or an empty swimming pool). A responsible adult should supervise the use of paddling pools at all times. You should also note that if the empty pool has a fall of more than one metre you will need to comply with another part of the Building code F4.
  • If people are employed specifically to supervise the pool when it’s in use, and the entire pool facility is locked at all other times. 

Pool safety barriers must fully enclose the pool or the “immediate pool area” and must prevent young children from going directly into the pool or pool area from the house, other buildings, or other parts of the property. A boundary fence may suffice as a pool fence, providing it meets compliance requirements and there is nothing on the other side (neighbours’ side) of the fence, such as close horizontal or angled rails, a stack of firewood or trellis that a small child could use to climb over the fence.

  • The fence must be at least 1.2m high at every point around the entire length of the outside of the fence.
  • The fence must not be able to be climbed. Any perforated material (trellis, mesh or netting) must have gaps no wider than 13mm if the fence is between 1.2m and 1.8m high, or gaps no wider than 35mm if the fence is a minimum of 1.8m and up to 3.0m high. Any horizontal or angled supports located on the outside of the fence must be at least 900mm apart, or be made non-climbable by the installation of a 60° fillet for example.
  • The fence must be at least 1.2m higher than any permanent climbable object or protrusion that is within 1.2m of the fence.
  • There must be no space greater than 100mm between the fence pickets or rails, or under the fence. 
  • Alternatively, if the fence is on a boundary and the outside (neighbours’ side) of the fence cannot be made compliant as outlined above, then so long as the  fence is a minimum of 1.8m high it may still comply. It must have a 900mm clear zone on the inside of the fence (measured no more than 150mm from the top), to prevent a small child from scaling the fence internally. The fence would need to be located a minimum of 1000mm from the edge of the water in the pool, to prevent a small child jumping directly into the pool.

Yes you can, as long as:

  • All gates open away from the pool.
  • All gates are fitted with a self-closing and self-latching device that closes and latches the gate from a static start at any position. Any external latches must be at least 1.5m above the ground to keep them out of reach of small children.
  • Any internal latch is not accessible by reaching over or through the gate unless the hole in the gate is at least 1.2m above ground level. Any gaps in the gate that may allow access to the latch below 1.2m must be covered by a shield a minimum least 450mm in diameter.
  • There is no object or device near the gate that could be used to hold it open. 

The wall of a building may form part of the pool safety barrier if it complies with the requirements of Clause F9 of the New Zealand Building Code.  

  • All doors that provide direct access to the pool or immediate pool area must be fitted with a locking device at least 1.5m from the internal floor level. They must either be self-closing and latching from a static start of 150mm or more from the closed position, or be fitted with an acceptable pool door alarm to signal any unwanted entry into the pool area. 
  • All windows opening into the immediate pool area, with an internal sill height of 1000mm or less, must be restricted to an opening of no more than 100mm, or be provided with shielding to the whole window, to restrict the passage of small children.  

The immediate pool area is the area that is directly related to the use of the pool and may include a pump shed, change rooms, decking or paving, pool furniture and a barbecue/dining area. It should not include the whole section or rear section even if the boundary is fenced. The pool area should not be a thoroughfare, provide access to other outbuildings, or accommodate other outdoor activities such as clotheslines, vegetable gardens or children’s play equipment.

Under the new legislation, compliant child resistant pool covers are considered a lawful pool safety barrier, so long as the pool cover can achieve all of the following.

  • The top surface of the pool wall shall be at all points not less than 760 mm above the adjacent floor or ground and the pool wall shall be vertical or slope outwards at not more than 15° from vertical.
  • There shall be: (a) No external objects or projections within 760 mm of the top edge that could assist climbing. or (b) No projections or indentations on the pool wall itself greater than 10 mm horizontally from the plane of the wall.
  • Covers shall be capable of supporting a vertical point load of 200 N (20 kg) when imposed over an area of 120 mm diameter at the centre of the cover.
  • The top surface of a cover shall be constructed with a slope from the centre to the outside edges (to prevent water ponding on the cover).
  • Covers shall be held in place with straps fitted with lockable snap fasteners having a minimum width of 33 mm on their main body.
  • Fastenings using metal padlocks may be used instead of lockable snap fasteners.
  • Hold-down straps and fasteners shall be capable of maintaining the cover in place so that there is no opening that a 100 mm sphere could pass through when a 100 N (10 kg) force is applied to the cover in any direction and at any location.
  • Signs complying with Paragraphs 2.2 and 3.2.2 of F8/AS1 containing the text below with black letters not less than 5 mm in height shall be fixed on two opposite sides of the cover: ‘WARNING: This spa pool cover must be kept locked except when under adult supervision’.

First we will contact you in writing to arrange an inspection. We need an adult to be present at this inspection. If you get a letter from us and you’re unable to attend at the specified time you will need to contact us on (04) 237 5089 to arrange another time. Please note the Building Act says that we must inspect your pool at least once every three years. Our officer will be looking at the barriers around the pool to make sure they comply with the Act.

Yes you can. You will need to contact us on (04) 237 5089 and make an appointment. Please note officers will be looking at more than 400 pools so you may need to be flexible about the date and time of a site visit.

If the pool passes the inspection you will receive a letter stating that the pool is compliant and setting out when the next inspection will be arranged.

If you fail the inspection we’ll write to you and let you know, and you’ll be required to make changes so the pool complies. 

You may: 

  • be directed to make a follow up inspection 
  • be issued with a Notice to Fix; and 
  • be directed to empty the pool immediately and keep it empty until the pool complies. 

A further inspection will be required to sign off the pool.

It is an offence not to comply with a Notice to Fix and if convicted you could be liable to a fine not exceeding $5,000.

We have a Checksheet that the Council officer will use. You may wish to do your own audit prior to our inspector turning up as this may save you time and money.

Yes you can, but the pool inspector needs to be someone who has been accepted by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) as qualified to carry out inspections to determine whether a pool has barriers that meet the requirements of the Building Act. A copy of their inspection must be forwarded to the Council as soon as possible after the inspection.

The initial Council pool visit will be free, because of the importance of keeping our children and young people safe. 

If you fail to keep an appointment without reasonable cause or require follow up visits to check your pool or barriers you will incur a charge for our time.

The visits every three years after the initial visits will be charged at the fee set by Council at the time.

Recommended pages:

More information about the Pools Act, what type of barriers you need and owners responsibilities is available on the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) website: