Pool Fencing

UPDATE: New Pool Safety Legislation Came Into Effect on 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.

Fencing of pools act 1987

It is your responsibility to fence your pool. Waimakariri District Council has the responsibility to administer the Fencing of Swimming Pools.

The Act was introduced to protect young children from the danger of drowning and is being reviewed, with the new legislation taking effect from 01.01.2017.

Some small heated pools (Spa pools) and ponds not intended for swimming will no longer need fencing.

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

This page will be updated with the new legislation as soon as it comes to hand.

Please contact this council for further information.

Practical pool fencing compliance

The fence

Fenced spa pool
  • The fence should be a minimum of 1.2 metres high
  • All the materials used must be sturdy
  • The fence must be built in such a way that a child aged six or under will not be able to climb over, squeeze through or crawl under it from the outside
  • The fence 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.
Fences with horizontal structures

In the event that a fence 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 fence 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 fences 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 six or under would not be able to climb over, crawl under, bend or break it down.

The gate

Spa pool gate Gates and doors which provide access to pool areas are treated as fences and must be constructed to comply with the rules given to the fence (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 or door is fitted with an automatic closing device which will prevent it being left open either accidentally or deliberately
  • The gate or door catch will not release if it is pulled up or pushed down and the gate or door cannot be lifted off its hinges
  • It is not possible to raise the gate or door so that the ground clearance is more than 100 mm.

In the case of doors in walls of buildings which form part of the ‘fence’ around a pool, it may not be necessary for them to comply with the rules if the Council decides that compliance is not practicable. 

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

Where a door in a wall forms part of a pool fence, a Council inspector should be contacted for advice and assessment to confirm requirements. In such a case, it may be sufficient that the door is fitted with a locking device which would prevent a child of six years or under opening the door. This would require an exemption. See the Fencing of Swimming Pools Act 1987 for information on an exemption.

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 that required by the Fencing of Swimming Pools Act 1987.

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 fence can aid climbing of the fence
  • Installing an angle box as shown can eliminate the climbing aid.

The immediate pool area

Immediate pool area
  • The immediate pool area must be fenced 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 fence 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.

The spa pool as shown in the photo is fenced off from the remainder of the outdoor area.

Pool fencing FAQs

  • Does my swimming or spa pool require fencing?
    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 fence it?
    No, the sides act as a fence, but you will need to ensure that there are not 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 fence. There are some instances where this may not apply i.e. fitting a small section of fence or fencing a spa pool, so please talk to our inspector for advice.
  • I am digging out a pond in my yard. Do I need to fence this?
    Not if the water depth is less than 400 mm deep.
  • I am a farmer and require a reservoir. Do I need to fence it?
    No, only pools and ponds associated with a dwelling require fencing, so you will need to separate the reservoir from the house area. 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 to fence the pool?
    Yes. All new and existing private swimming pools require fencing. Rivers are not covered by the Fencing of Swimming Pools Act.
  • How high should my fence 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 fence?
    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 fence my pool?
    You can apply to the Council for an exemption. This application goes forward to elected Councillors for consideration. They will assess the risk and either give the exemption, refuse it or issue with conditions.
  • Why don’t these fencing rules apply to lakes in new residential subdivisions?
    Most of these subdivisions have been granted exemptions under the Fencing of Swimming Pools Act 1987.
  • Can I fill my pool prior to the fence being installed? My installer says that I need to.
    No. You must provide fencing 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 Fencing of Swimming Pools Act.
  • How can I find out if my pool complies with the Fencing of Swimming Pools Act?
    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 fence, the Council swimming pool inspector will be able to advise if a building consent is required.
  • Why do I have to have my pool fence inspected every three years?
    To make sure it still complies with the Fencing of Swimming Pools Act.
  • Does a spa pool with a lockable lid require a pool fence?
    Yes, unless the top edge of the pool is 1.2 metres above the ground and is not climbable, or you have applied for and been granted an exemption.
  • Can I use a thick prickly hedge as a pool fence?
    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 fence?
    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 fenced pool area as a dog run?
    No, it is not a pool-related activity.
  • Can a property be sold with an unfenced pool?
    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.