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Unfenced spa pools becoming new death traps

19 January 2006

While fencing around swimming pools is largely accepted now by the public as a necessary compliance safety measure, the increasing popularity of spa pools may soon negate such progress, says the Christchurch City Council.

Unfenced spa pools are becoming the new death traps of many Christchurch back yards, says Council Environmental Monitoring Team Leader, Willis Heney. Few owners realise that they are required to fence spa pools just like swimming pools, under the Fencing and Swimming Pools Act, 1987.

“Many think their fold-back or lockable spa pool covers are enough to save a child’s life. They’re not. These lids are only designed to keep the pool hot. It’s fencing that keeps children out. Anything with more than 400mm of water in it is a potential death trap,” Mr Heney says.

According to the latest Water Safety New Zealand (WSNZ) statistics released on Wednesday, nine children aged 0-5 years drowned in New Zealand last year - more than double the death toll for 2004. 

The bath and home pool were the most “at risk” sites for drowning in this age group, according to the WSNZ. Decreasing number of deaths in home swimming pools over the last 25 years suggests that increased awareness of supervising children around swimming pools, and the need to fence pools has greatly helped.

Although none of last year’s pre-school drownings were in spa pools, there had been two spa pool drownings in the last five years. The City Council is concerned that spa pools’ increasing popularity in Christchurch the city’s climate where they are useable year-round, means an increasing risk for children. 

The Council had worked with sellers and manufacturers of spa pools two years ago to get their support in explaining to spa pool buyers the laws for fencing spa pools, but they were under no legal obligation to pass such information on to buyers.

There had been no swimming pool deaths in Christchurch for the last five years,  and the Council wanted to ensure that statistic remained for both swimming pools and spa pools.

“These laws are there to protect our children, not punish pool owners,” Mr Heney says. Anyone wanting more information about fencing pools can contact the Council.

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