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Company News >> Pool owners face expensive upgrades after law change
 Hundreds of annoyed pool owners who were granted a waiver allowing them to avoid fencing off their pools are fighting the Government on the safety of pool covers. 

They are facing costly upgrades after being granted waivers allowing them to have pool covers instead of fencing, only to be told a 2017 legislation change - which ambiguously replaced the words 'fencing' with 'physical barriers' - required they construct a fence.

The Building Act leaves territorial authorities to inspect pool fences and Marlborough District Council issued the most waivers, 23, since the law change, but more than 200 owners - and some in Thames and Christchurch - were granted a reprieve decades ago. 

Asked last year by Marlborough District Council to clarify the term 'physical barriers', the Ministry of Building Innovation and Enterprise (MBIE) controversially accepted "an automatic pool cover is a barrier and has the same effect as a pool fence when the pool cover is closed", but did not support waivers in principle, particularly where building a fence was a reasonable option. Pool owners were told they would have to bring their pools up to code with a consent and a fence. 

 

Retired lawyer Bernie Rowe is seeking a new determination from the ministry in a bid to not have his pool bound by a fence

SCOTT HAMMOND/STUFF
Retired lawyer Bernie Rowe is seeking a new determination from the ministry in a bid to not have his pool bound by a fence

Marlborough pool owner and retired lawyer Bernie Rowe has sought legal advice to dispute the ruling and is backed by seven pool owners who have formed the Marlborough Pool Covers Action Group to represent everyone affected. 

The action group say the ministry's determination was "fundamentally flawed" and should be invalid, and they are backed by the council, who has written to MBIE supporting Rowe. 

Building consultant Stan Brandish said the ministry had "stepped over a line" differentiating an open pool cover with a closed pool cover.

"Nothing in the Building Code controls the actions of people. The code cannot mandate for the actions of people, but it is an inherent expectation in the code, as in all rules or law, that people will use the building system or feature provided as intended for its purpose."

Pool owner Tom Winter had seven years left on his waiver. He had spent $15,000 on his cover and didn't want to think about building a fence on his property.

Terry Sissons had been issued a "notice to fix", which required he construct a fence. He was holding out until the issue was resolved.

Marlborough Pool Cover Action group members from left, Tom Winter and Terry Sissons, think the ministry's decision was wrong.
SCOTT HAMMOND/STUFF
Marlborough Pool Cover Action group members from left, Tom Winter and Terry Sissons, think the ministry's decision was wrong.

An MBIE spokesperson said pool fences were the safest way of restricting unsupervised pool access by young children.

"In March 2018, MBIE issued a determination with a decision that a residential pool with an automatic pool cover but without any other physical barrier to the pool or immediate pool area did not comply with Clause F9 of the Building Code."

Water Safety NZ backed the Ministry.

"Any other barriers – such as pool covers – have the potential to introduce uncertainty as effective barriers," chief Jonty Mills said. "Manually covering a pool is discretionary and subject to human failure which introduces a new level of risk." 

The NZ Pool Industry Association last year opposed the waiver ban. Former chief executive Geoff Bonham, who died in January, had strongly championed pool covers as a safety barrier. Bonham manufactured pool and spa covers.

Current chief, Larry Ogden, said it now supported fencing over covers.

 

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