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Company News >> Ministry bans pool covers as safety barriers
 Pool builder Mike Freeth has called on the Marlborough District Council to appeal the ministry's decision to ban pool covers as safety barriers.
Pool builder Mike Freeth has called on the Marlborough District Council to appeal the ministry's decision to ban pool covers as safety barriers.

Automatic pool covers without fences have been banned in New Zealand.

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The Marlborough District Council, responsible for most of the waivers, asked the ministry for "clarity" over the issue.



Ministry determination manager Katie Gordon said the ministry did not view pool covers as a safe option compared to the "risk associated with a compliant pool fence", which had automatically closing gates or door alarms.

automatic pool cover on its own does not address the risk that the pool cover may be left open, even if only temporarily, when there is not a supervising adult present in the pool area thereby leaving the pool open to any young children," Gordon said.

"It is hard to see how this increased risk [of a pool cover] is consistent with the objective of [the building code] clause ... 'to prevent injury or death to young children involving residential pools'."

The council said it "accepted" the ministry's decision but was disappointed with the outcome.

Council building control manager Bill East said the council would no longer accept automatic pool covers as an alternative to fences.

"We are disappointed in this outcome as the use of automatic safety pool covers in the Marlborough district has proven its suitability since 1999. However [the] council must follow the ruling of the determination."

The council would contact the 200 affected pool owners in the region. 

"Owners of pools with expired pool cover exemptions will be advised that they must apply for a building consent to install a compliant pool barrier.

"Pool owners whose exemptions or modifications have yet to expire will be advised that they will need to apply for a building consent to install a compliant pool barrier by the expiry date," East said. 

Most waivers lasted five to 10 years.

Pool builder Mike Freeth, of Blenheim, called on the Marlborough District Council and the pool industry to challenge the decision. 

"Now that we've had this decision, I think the council should appeal it and I think the industry and pool owners should voice our dissatisfaction with the decision," he said. 

He said the ministry's decision was "disappointing" and he had never seen any safety issues with automated pool covers in his 18 years in the industry.

"I understand what they are trying to do because they also want to keep people safe but these covers have a proven history of being very good and create a safe environment on a property.

"They have a book of rules to follow and there is room for discussion. Some people like the covers, some people don't and I think the don'ts have won out," Freeth said. 

He said the Marlborough District Council was "awesome" over the past few years by granting exemptions to allow covers instead of fences. 

Automatic covers were "safer than a fence", Freeth said.

"When the cover is closed, children can't get in [the pool] because the modern cover has a touch pad with a combination [code].

"If the kids don't know the combination, they can't come in and have a swim or the neighbour's kids can't jump over the fence, where let's face it, even a 1.8-metre boundary fence, kids can climb over it," he said. 

Freeth said clients had pulled out of pool installations worth $70,000 in Marlborough after the council stopped granting waivers on February 20.

Blenheim resident Nate Bainbridge missed out on getting a wavier to use a cover instead of a fence for the pool he was building.

"We're pretty gutted, our situation [is] we've got an incredible view on our property and once we put fencing up the value of our property could go down because it's behind a fence.

"We have contemplated not getting the pool," he said. 

Water Safety NZ chief executive Jonty Mills said the group supported the move to ban pool covers on their own.  

"Water Safety NZ welcomes MBIE's clarification of the [Building] Act's intention, which is to ensure that there is an effective barrier so that children cannot gain access to a pool and thereby come into proximity to the water. 

"Any other barriers, such as pool covers, have the potential to introduce uncertainty as effective barriers. Manually covering a pool is discretionary and subject to human failure which introduces a new level of risk. It takes less than a minute for a child to drown," Mills said.


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