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Swimming Pool FencingNgā puna kaukau

This page provides an overview of the reasons for the legislation, a broad outline of the type of fencing required, and the available exemptions.

Swimming pool fencing

Building owners with pools on site must put barriers around pools to restrict under-five-year-olds from unsupervised access. This is to protect vulnerable children from the risk of drowning.

Most drownings involve pools owners’ children or visitors rather than wandering children.

In recognition of the young children’s extreme vulnerability around pools, our Building Control team here at Hastings District Council (Council) take extra care and time when processing pool consents. We do this to ensure pool barrier design meets the safety levels required under the Building Code Clause F9.

The term “barrier” replaced “fence” when the Building (Pools) Amendment Act repealed the Fencing of Swimming Pools Act. This recognises a fence is not the only way to restrict children gaining access to a pool.

Pools are required to have a suitable barrier restricting access to the pool by under-five-year-olds.  Restrictions around what can be contained within the pool barrier (immediate pool area) are also in place.

Preventing residential pool-related injury or death among young children is the key goal of Building Code Clause F9 – Means of Restricting Access to Residential Pools. This legislation applies to all residential pools with a maximum water depth of at least 400mm, whether they are filled, or partly filled, with water.

Pool owners’ obligations

The Building Code changes mean a wider range of pools, including indoor pools, must comply with Clause F9. The definitions apply to anywhere people live, not just houses.

The Code states if you are a pool owner, you must not only ensure your pool has suitable barriers, but you must also maintain that barrier. This means you must repair or replace any hinges on gates and catches or latches when broken. You must also fix door alarms or self-closers as soon as they stop working.

It also means you should not remove any catches or stays required to be installed on doors and windows.

All pools require Building Consents unless they are specifically exempt.

You need Building Consent before constructing any type of pool barrier. (The pool itself may also need consent depending on the size of the pool).

In the same way, if you want to change or reposition the barrier (other than maintenance) you also require a building consent.

Pool inspections

Owners must have their pools or pool barriers checked either by Council or an independently qualified pool inspector every three years to ensure pool barriers are maintained.

The inspector will check gates, catches, latches, etc. to ensure:

  • they work properly,
  • the barrier has no holes children can get through, and
  • the barrier has no trees, shrubs or other climbing points near or against it that children could climb to access the pool.

Swimming Pool diagram

Tenants’ obligations

If you rent or lease a property that has pool but no suitable pool barrier, you must keep the pool empty.

Un-fenced pools

You are committing an offence if you own a pool that does not have a suitable barrier. Owners of properties with pools without suitable barriers have been prosecuted after children drowned there.

Small heated pools

Some small heated pools such as spa pools or hot tubs do not require a barrier or building consent. The Code’s definition of small heated pools includes those:

  • with a water surface area of 5m² or less, and
  • designed for therapeutic or recreational use.

The height of the edge of the pool is to be no less than 760mm; and the lid must be lockable, have limited movement and must be able to carry a specified weight.

Standard of pool barrier (fencing)

You need a Building Consent to build a barrier around your pool. The pool barrier must restrict children under five from accessing the pool. 

The barrier must be constructed in line with the below:

  • it must not be climbable
  • gates must self-close and latch 
  • any gaps must not be large enough for a child can get under or through (max 100mm gaps)
  • it must be no less than 1200mm high where it encloses the pool unless the barrier is also the boundary fence, in which case it must be no less than 1.8m high. (Note: Additional requirements apply to boundary fences; please check with your designer.)
  • Where a building also forms part of a barrier, specific requirements exist for any doors and windows a child could get through to access the pool.

F9 of the Building Code provides some details that you may find useful to assist with the design of your barriers.

Fencing exemptions

All private swimming pools need to be fenced unless:

  • The maximum depth is 400 mm or less.
  • The walls of the pool are 1.2 metres or more above the ground with no steps, hand holds or projections enabling a child to climb into the pool.

Council has discretion to grant exemptions to fencing standards if it is satisfied that the danger to young children will not be significantly increased by allowing the exemption.

Building consent applications

You need to complete an application form and provide drawings and relevant specifications, in particular for the pool barrier (as with all building consent applications).

You need to provide details for:

  • post foundations,
  • heights of rails,
  • gaps (both between rails, and between the top rail to the top of the fence),
  • site plans,
  • how the gate(s) will self-close and self-latch and
  • if you are using a building to form part of the barrier you will need to provide details for doors or windows that give access to the pool and, where relevant, any decks that overhang the pool.

Including photos often assist Council’s decisions for consent applications.

Fees and charges

Council charge a fee for processing building consents associated with pools and pool barriers. Head to Council's fees and charges page and click on Building, then scroll down to find our Standard charges for building officers.

Independently qualified pool inspectors will also charge a fee.

Before you make a decision to buy or build a pool, you should discuss fencing requirements with the pool supplier or a competent design professional.

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