Due to the alarming number of young children that have died from drowning in swimming pools, the NSW Government has introduced amendments to the Swimming Pools Act 1992 to strengthen pool safety requirements.

The Swimming Pools Amendment Act 2012 (the Act) received assent and commenced on 29 October 2012. The Act introduces a whole new registration regime and new obligations on pool owners and councils.

Pool owners will be required for the first time to self-register their pool, free of charge on a State-wide online register. The register will become operational 6 months after commencement of the Act. Pool owners who fail to comply with swimming pool registration requirements by 29 October 2013 (i.e. 12 months after commencement of the Act) will face fines starting at $220. The maximum penalty for failure to comply with these requirements will be $2,200.

Pool owners will be required to attach a valid swimming pool compliance certificate to the contract before being able to sell or lease a property with a pool. This requirement will commence 18 months after commencement of the Act. A compliance certificate issued by the council will be valid for 3 years from the date of its issue.

Under the Act “a hotel or motel” has been replaced with “tourist and visitor accommodation”. This means that the requirements for swimming pools will now apply to a wider range of commercial and shared residential accommodation such as backpackers’ accommodation, bed and breakfast accommodation, farm stay and serviced apartments.

Councils will be required to develop swimming pool inspection programs. The scheme will include random inspections of residential pools and mandatory periodic inspections of pools associated with tourist and visitor accommodation and multi-occupancy accommodation every 3 years. It is anticipated that fees will be $150 for the initial inspection and $100 for reinspections. Councils will be able to recover the costs of these inspections from pool owners. Councils are required to, and are given wide powers to, investigate all complaints about pools.

Previous exemptions for fencing requirements around swimming pools located on large properties and waterfront properties now have limited application under the Act. Large properties and waterfront properties that have a fence or a wall erected between the swimming pool and the house or flat now require the swimming pool to be surrounded by a child-resistant barrier.

The Act also makes a number of other significant changes. If you have a swimming pool you are strongly advised to become familiar with the amended Swimming Pools Act and seek legal advice if you are not sure of your obligations.

For more information contact Brent Wilson at b.wilson@pigott.com.au

This article is intended to provide general information in summary form on a legal topic, current at the time of publication. The contents do not constitute legal advice and should not be relied on as such. Formal legal advice should be sought in specific circumstances.

Prepared by Anthony Gavan and Prerna Sundarjee