A pool means
- any excavation or structure (excluding an artificial lake) of a kind normally used for swimming, paddling, or bathing; or
- any product (other than an ordinary home bath) that is designed or modified to be used for swimming, wading, paddling, or bathing;
A residential pool means a pool that is
- In a place of abode (see definition of ‘abode’ below); or
- In or on land that also contains an abode; or
- In or on land that is adjacent to another land that contains an abode if the pool is used in conjunction with that other land or abode.
- An abode is
- Any place used predominantly as a place of residence or lodging (even if temporary), including any appurtenances (accessories) belonging to or enjoyed with the place; and
- Includes any of the following: hotel, motel, inn, hostel, boarding house, convalescent home, nursing home, hospice, rest home, retirement village, camping ground and any other similar place.
A small heated pool (spa or hot tub) means a pool where
- the water surface area is 5 square metres or less, AND
- the walls of the pool are at least 760mm above the adjacent floor, deck or ground, AND
- is designed for therapeutic or recreational use.
Compliance of Existing Pools
The Building Act 2004 has made provision for the continued compliance of existing pools within the recent changes to pool legislation. The critical sections of the Building Act are section 162C and section 450B. This applies to any residential pool that was constructed, erected, or installed (after 1 September 1987) and before 1 January 2017.
An existing pool is deemed to have barriers that comply if the barriers—
- comply with the requirements of the building code that are in force, or
- that was in force when the pool was constructed, erected, or installed (after 1 September 1987) and in respect of which a building consent, code compliance certificate, or certificate of acceptance was issued (in relation to the means of restricting access to the pool).
This means that for a pool either consented with a CCC or approved with a COA issued under old legislation (before 1 January 2017), that it continues to
- comply with the Schedule of the Fencing of Swimming Pools Act 1987 (as that schedule was in force) immediately before 1 January 2017; and
- continues to comply with those requirements subject to—
- any exemption that was granted under the Schedule of the Fencing of Swimming Pools Act 1987 and that was subsisting immediately before 1 January 2017; and
- the conditions of any such exemption.
Alternatively, an existing pool is deemed to comply if all of the following apply:
- The outside surface of the side walls of the pool is constructed so as to inhibit climbing; and
- No part of the top of any side wall of the pool is less than 1.2 m above—
- The adjacent ground level; and
- Any permanent projection from the ground outside of the pool and within 1.2 m of the walls of the pool; and
- Any object standing on the ground outside of the pool and within 1.2 m of the walls of the pool; and
- Any ladder or other means of access to the interior of the swimming pool—
- Can be readily removed or made inoperable; and
- Is removed or made inoperable whenever the pool is not intended to be in use.
Putting in a New Pool
A resource consent may be required if the pool proximity to the boundary or other buildings does not meet the district plan. Check with the planning department of your local Council.
A building consent is required for pool barriers. This must be obtained before barrier construction and pool construction/installation begins. A pool barrier is required if the pool can be filled to a depth of 400mm or more, and contains any volume of water. This includes:
- Outdoor pools
- Indoor residential pools – pool room doors must not be readily opened by children and must be self-closing and alarmed
- Portable Pools
A barrier is not required for:
- Garden Ponds
- Empty pools unless thee fall is a 1 metre or more (Building Code F4 safety from falling)
- School pools unless there is a residence or abode as part of the school property. However, schools should be considering health and safety risks to the community when considering whether or not to fence a school pool
Residential pool or large spa
If the residential pool, including an indoor residential pool or large spa pool, does not fit the definition of a small heated pool, and is not exempt under Schedule 1 of the Building Act 2004, then a building consent will be required for building work in connection with a pool and any structure in support of the pool. Contact your Council and check whether you need a building consent for the pool, the pool barriers or both. Exempt pools:
Even if you find that the pool is exempt, the barriers to restrict the access of young children to the residential pool are not exempt and do require a building consent. The pool barriers and operation of barriers must meet the requirements of the Building Code clause F9. These requirements also apply to temporary above ground pools and any pool that can be filled to a depth of 400mm or more. Means of compliance can be either through following an acceptable solution or an alternative solution:
- Acceptable Solutions F9/AS1 Means of Restricting Access to Residential Pools is an approved method of achieving compliance. This document can be downloaded for free from the MBIE website.
- Alternative Solution is a design where the designer must prove to the Council that the design will meet the requirements of the Building Code. They will have to provide enough evidence to show that the building code performance criteria will be met. If you intend to use an alternative solution, we advise that you talk to your Council before making a building consent application, so that you clearly understand the consequences of the choices you are making. If the Council is not satisfied that the designer has demonstrated compliance with clause F9 of the Building Code, they may refuse to issue a building consent or insist that you apply for a Determination from MBIE before they will approve the building consent.
Small heated pools
A building consent is not required if the residential pool fits the definition of a small heated pool, and the safety cover complies with Building Code clause F9.3.5. Small heated pools are also exempt from the 3 yearly mandatory inspections. The cover must:
- Restrict access to the pool when the cover is closed (i.e. Lockable cover)
- Be able to withstand a reasonably foreseeable load
- Be able to be readily returned to the closed position
- Have signage indicating its child safety features.
See MBIE guidance on exempt building work Section 21A, on page 62, Means of restricting access to small heated pools.
Pool Owner/Operator/Purchaser or Lessee Responsibilities
Every residential pool that is filled or partly filled with water must have physical barriers that restrict access to the pool by unsupervised children under 5 years of age. The means of restricting access must comply with the requirements of the building code that are in force; or that was in force when the pool was constructed, erected, or installed (after 1 September 1987) and in respect of which a building consent, code compliance certificate, or certificate of acceptance was issued (in relation to the means of restricting access to the pool). In the case of a small heated pool, the means of restricting access need only restrict access to the pool when the pool is not in use.
The following persons must ensure compliance of the residential pools, including small heated pools:
- Pool owner
- Pool operator
- Owner of the land on which the pool is situated
- Occupier of the property in or on which the pool is situated
- If the pool is subject to a hire purchase agreement (as that term is defined in the Income Tax Act 2007), the purchaser of the pool
- If the pool is on premises that are not subject to a tenancy under the Residential Tenancies Act 1986 but the pool is subject to a lease or is part of premises subject to a lease, the lessee of the pool or the premises.
The responsible person must ensure all compliance requirements are met. If not met, the pool may not be filled with water. Council encourages pool owners to regularly inspect pools and surrounding areas to ensure continued compliance and to promptly attend to any safety maintenance. The key areas to check are the following;
Residential Pools –
- Barriers surrounding the immediate pool area
- Pool barriers
- Pool barrier on a property boundary
- Pool wall as a barrier
- Strength of pool barriers
- Balconies projecting into the immediate pool area
- Pool barrier on a property boundary
- Gates in pool barriers – Gate construction
- Building wall forming the pool barrier
- Windows in the building wall
- Doors in the building wall
Small Heated Pools –
- Pool walls
- Strength of covers
- Top surface of cover
- Cover fastenings (locks)
- No objects or structures within 1.2m of the pool could be used by a child to gain access to the pool
- The structure (e.g. deck) supporting the pool is structurally sound
If you are unsure if your pool is compliant, Building Officers are available to conduct pool inspections for a small fee. Please contact the Building Unit of your local Council to make an appointment.
All pool owners should notify the local Council of the existence of a pool on their property. Phone, post a note or email your Council (see contact details): For example
Attention: Building Department,
………………………………………………………………………… (Write Council’s name here).
I wish to notify Council of the existence of a pool at the following address:
………………………………………………………………………… (Write the address here).
The pool construction was completed on:
…………………………………………………………………………. (Write the date or approximate date, or if unknown, write Unknown).
…………………………………………………………………………. (Write your name here)
…………………………………………………………………………. (Phone number)
…………………………………………………………………………. (Email address)
Owner OR Tenant (say if you are the owner or tenant)
Mandatory Pool Barrier Inspections
As of 1 January 2017, every residential pool must be inspected every 3 years, within 6 months either side of the anniversary of the pool’s completion. Your Council will notify you when an inspection is pending. The inspection can be carried out by your local Territorial Authority (Council) or by an independent qualified pool inspector (IQPI) who has been approved by the Ministry of Business, Innovation, and Employment (MBIE). A register of IQPIs will be available on the MBIE website in 2017.
If you choose to use an IQPI, the IQPI must supply the council with a Certificate of Periodic Inspection. If the Council is not satisfied with the certificate they must notify MBIE within 7 working days giving their reasons for not accepting the certificate. Both IQPI and Councils can charge for the work that they carry out. The Council is required to notify the pool owner of an upcoming inspection regardless of who carries out the inspection and is required to hold the inspection records. The person carrying out the inspection has the authority to read the previous pool records prior to the inspection.
If the pool does not pass the inspection the inspector will issue a Notice To Fix. The Owner will have to address the compliance issues within the timeframe stated in the notice. Failure to comply with the Notice To Fix could result in an Infringement Notice and fine, or prosecution.
The following legal requirements must be met:
- The Building Code and the Local Government Act have the requirement that the public water supply is protected from the likelihood of cross-contamination between potable (drinkable) and non-potable supplies. Therefore some of the Councils will require the installation of a backflow prevention device; the minimum requirement being an atmospheric vacuum breaker fitted to the hose tap used to fill the pool.
- The Water Supply Bylaw of some of the Councils requires that properties with a swimming pool capacity of 10m 3 (cubic metres) or more be fitted with a water meter. Check with your local Council to see if this is needed. The cost of the installation is to be paid by the property owner at the time of the application.
Pool Manufacturer and Retailer Responsibilities
Manufacturers and retailers of pools must supply notices warning owners of the requirements to have pool barriers that will prevent young children accessing the pool. This came into force on 1 September 2017. The notice content, placement, and typography must meet the requirements of the Gazette Notice number 2017–go984, Building (Pool Manufacturers and Retailers) Notice 2017.
Home Pool Drowning Statistics
See Statistics and Research. Statistics for 2017 as at 16 October shows an average of 55 people died – against 50 the same time last year.