Pool & Pond Fencing

UPDATE: New Pool Safety Legislation Effective 1 January 2017

On 20 October 2016 Parliament passed the Building (Pools) Amendment Bill, repealing the Fencing of Swimming Pools Act 1987 and including new pool safety provisions in the Building Act 2004. Key changes include:

  • a new requirement for mandatory three-yearly inspections of swimming pools
  • allowing safety covers to be used as barriers for spa pools and hot tubs
  • introducing additional enforcement tools for territorial authorities, including notices to fix

Review of the fencing of swimming pools Act 1987.

Building Act 2004

It is your responsibility to provide a physical barrier to restrict access to your pool. The Waimakariri District Council has the responsibility to administer the Building Act 2004.

The changes have been introduced to protect young children from the danger of drowning and is being reviewed, and the new legislation has taken effect from 01 January 2017.

Some small heated pools (Spa pools) and ponds not intended for swimming will no longer needs fencing. Contact the Waimakariri District Council to see if your pool or pond is exempt.

Councils will be required to inspect a pool and its barrier at least once every three years.

Practical pool fencing compliance

The Barrier

Fenced spa pool

Practical Pool Barrier Compliance

  • The barrier should be a minimum of 1.2 metres high
  • All the materials used must be sturdy
  • The barrier must be built in such a way that a child aged five or under will not be able to climb over, squeeze through or crawl under it from the outside
  • The barrier can be of vertical pales, posts or panels which must be no more than 100 mm apart
  • Any bracing, supports, wires, rails or rods which are not vertical must be positioned in such a way as to make them inaccessible for climbing from the outside.
Barriers with Horizontal Structures

In the event that a barrier has horizontal structures, such as bars, rods, wires or bracing, which are accessible from outside, they must be at least 900 mm apart and there must be no other support or structure (apart from a vertical rail) between them which might make climbing possible for a young child.

Using netting, mesh or perforated material in barrier construction

When using netting, mesh or similar perforated material, e.g. trellis, the openings must not be larger than 50 mm and the height should be 1.8 m.

  • Trellis used for 1.2 m high barriers should have openings no greater than 10 mm
  • Netting, mesh or other perforated, non-rigid fencing must be fitted to a solid support structure or frame, attached at the top and bottom and constructed in such a way that a child aged five or under would not be able to climb over, crawl under, bend or break it down.

The gate

Gates and doors which provide access to pool areas are treated as barriers and must be constructed to comply with the rules given to the barriers (see above). They should be mounted so that:

  • They cannot open inwards towards the pool area
  • There are no obstructions which could stop the gate closing and there must be no means of holding the gate open. 
Other requirements
  • Every gate is fitted with an automatic closing device which will prevent it being left open either accidentally or deliberately
  • The gate catch will not release if it is pulled up or pushed down and the gate cannot be lifted off its hinges
  • It is not possible to raise the gate so that the ground clearance is more than 100 mm.

When a door or window in a wall forms part of a pool fence

Where a door or window in a wall forms part of a pool barrier, the door must not be readily opened by children and must either emit an audible warning or close automatically after use. Window openings must be constructed or positioned to restrict the passage of children.

The latch

Pool gate latch
  • The lock or latch to the gate should be a minimum of 1.5 metres from the ground and should self-lock
  • A factory-made version is shown in the photo.

The self-closer

Self-closing gate

  • The gate should self-close when open 150 mm to fully open
  • To check this, hold your gate open with a 150 mm gap and the gate should close and latch
  • A self-closing hinge is in the photo
  • Ensure that these hinges are at least 900 mm apart as they can create a toe hold point
  • Special non-climbable tops which do comply can be purchased if they are positioned closer than 900 mm apart.

The gap under the fence

Gap under fence The maximum allowable gap under a gate or fence is 100 mm.  

The fence fillet

Fence fillet
  • When you have an intermediate rail on an existing boundary fence that you wish to use as a pool fence, you will need to install a 3-to-1 ratio sloped fillet as shown in the photo
  • You will need to seek approval from your neighbour to install any fillets on their side of the fence, and they will have to agree to keep their side non-climbable
  • These fillets can also be installed when the rails are on your side 1.2 metres from the point where your new fence connects.

A non-climbable fence

Non-climbable fence

  • On occasions objects which are too close to your pool barrier can aid climbing of the barrier.
  • Installing an angle box as shown can eliminate the power fitting from being a climbing aid.

The immediate pool area

  • The immediate pool area must be separated with a compliant barrier off from the rest of your backyard
  • It must not contain things like clotheslines, vegetable gardens, children’s play area or tennis courts
  • You must not leave patio furniture or other items close to the pool barrier that could enable climbing
  • It is not permissible for the immediate pool area to be the only pathway leading to other parts of the back yard.

Pool fencing FAQs

  • Does my swimming or spa pool require a barrier?
    Yes, unless the sides at least 1.2m high and it is non-climbable.
  • My pool is 1.2 metres above ground - do I need to a barrier?
    No, the sides act as a barrier, but you will need to ensure that there are no climbable aspects to the pool including the frame sides, pump, pipes and planting etc. You will have to have a removable access ladder.
  • Does my pool require building consent?
  • Under the Building Act you need a building consent before you can construct a pool and/or pool barrier. There are some instances where this may not apply i.e., so please talk to our inspector for advice.
  • I am digging out a pond in my yard. Do I need to fence this?
    Only if it is to be of a kind normally used for swimming, paddling or bathing.
  • I am a farmer and require a reservoir. Will is require a barrier?
    No, not unless it will normally be used for swimming, paddling or bathing. You may need building and/or resource consent though, depending on size. (The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment website has information on which ones require a building consent.)
  • I have a river running though my property and I want to install a swimming pool near it. Do I need a barrier for the pool?
    Yes. All new and existing private swimming pools require barriers. Rivers are not covered by the building Act 2004.
  • How high should my barrier be?
    At least 1.2 metres high.
  • My neighbour is not allowing me to install a fillet on his side of the fence what can I do?
    Your neighbour's permission is required for this to be installed (agreement is also needed to allow the fence in general to be used as a pool fence). If agreement can’t be met, you should install a new fence inside the existing boundary fence 1.2 metres away from the existing fence.
  • What is the maximum gap I am allowed in between vertical palings in my barrier?
    A maximum gap of 100 mm.
  • Why do I need to install a backflow preventer on my hose tap?
    In the event of loss of pressure in your water supply at the same time that you were filling the pool, pool water could be drawn back into the potable water supply which creates a health risk.
  • What type of backflow preventer do I require?
    A swimming pool is classed as a 'medium' risk in the New Zealand Building Code. You will require a medium risk backflow preventer, e.g. permanent air gap separation, reduced pressure zone device, double check valve, atmospheric vacuum breaker or the most common and cheapest  a pressure type vacuum breaker (these can be bought from most plumbing stores for as little as $25).
  • What is a permanent air gap separation?
    If your pool is filled by a permanent connection at least 25 mm above the flood level of your pool, permanent air separation has been achieved and no additional backflow preventer is required.
  • What happens if I cannot install a barrier for my pool?
    You must empty the pool and contact the Council to discuss your options.
  • Why don’t these barrier rules apply to lakes in new residential subdivisions?
    Most of these subdivisions have been granted exemptions under the Fencing of Swimming Pools Act 1987, and since 01.01.2017 they no longer require a barrier or an exemption.
  • Can I fill my pool prior to the barrier being installed? My installer says that I need to.
    No. You must provide   a barrier at all times (if the water level exceeds 400 mm in depth).
  • Can I use a temporary contractor’s fence while I build it?
    Yes, but only if it complies with the  requirements for barriers under the Building Act 2004.
  • How can I find out if my pool complies with the Building Act 2004 for pool barriers?
    Inspection by a Council officer is required to confirm that the pool complies with the requirements of the Act. Contact Customer Services to check whether the pool complies. If an existing pool is not registered in the Council database, you will need to complete a Swimming and Spa Pool Registration form and pay the inspection fee. If this inspection results in the need to install a barrier, the Council inspector will be able to advise if a building consent is required.
  • Why do I have to have my pool barrier inspected every three years?
    The Law now requires a 3 yearly inspection to confirm continued compliance.
  • Does a spa pool with a lockable lid require an additional barrier?
    No – providing it has a water surface area of 5m2 or less, every wall of the pool is no less than 760mm above adjacent floor or ground level, the side inhibit climbing and the lid restricts entry to Children.  The lid must be able to withstand a reasonably foreseeable load and can be readily returned to the closed position.  The small heated pool (spa) must have signage to indicate its child safety features.
  • Can I use a thick prickly hedge as a pool barrier?
    No. There is no guarantee that a hedge will remain impenetrable for the life of the pool.
  • Does a blow-up pool that I use for a day or a week at a time require a pool barrier?
    Yes, if the sides are less than 1.2 metres above the surrounding ground and the water is more than 400 mm deep.
  • Can I use my pool area inside the pool barrier as a dog run?
    No, it is not a pool-related activity.
  • Can a property be sold with a pool that does not have a barrier?
    Yes, a sale can proceed, but the purchaser should be aware that there is a requirement for the pool to comply and the responsibility for this transfers to them with the sale of the property. A pool without a barrier should be empty until a complying barrier has been installed.