Why residential pools need barriers


Research shows that fencing residential swimming pools reduces accidental drowning of young children.

Drownings of young children in residential swimming pools in New Zealand decreased dramatically after the Fencing of Swimming Pools Act 1987 (FOSPA) was enacted. Prior to 1987, an average of 10 young children drowned every year in residential swimming pools. By 2014, this average had reduced to two young children every year. Most of the children who drowned were under three years of age.

Cochrane Collaboration online library has a review of international research on pool fencing.

The Water Safety New Zealand website has data on drowning.

Law changes from 1 January 2017

The Building (Pools) Amendment Act 2016 repealed FOSPA and inserted provisions in the Act relating to residential pools. The changes came into effect on 1 January 2017. The changes aim to better protect children from drowning in residential pools while also making the requirements more practical and enforceable.

The main changes are:

  • a new requirement that residential pools must be inspected every three years
  • in certain circumstances, covers can be used as barriers for small heated pools such as spa pools and hot tubs
  • territorial authorities can use a “notice to fix” to enforce the requirement to restrict access to residential pools. The only enforcement tool under FOSPA was prosecution.

Building (Pools) Amendment Act 2016 on the Legislation website has further information.

Further information

Restricting access to residential pools has more information.

Contact us if you have questions relating to residential pools. 

This information is published by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s Chief Executive. It is a general guide only and, if used, does not relieve any person of the obligation to consider any matter to which the information relates according to the circumstances of the particular case. Expert advice may be required in specific circumstances. Where this information relates to assisting people: