Following the deaths of six children in tragic backyard pool incidents last year across New South Wales, the state government has announced widespread changes to the way swimming pools are regulated and kept safe across the state. The backyard tragedies last year, each involving pools that didn’t have adequate fence gates or fencing, may have finally provided the spark needed to up the safety of backyard pools.
Local government minister Don Page announced that changes would soon be made to the Swimming Pool Act if the current state government has its way. The proposed changes, and some of the ideas surrounding the discussion, were released by the state government in a discussion paper, which has been sent to the various city councils across NSW for feedback.
Some of the proposed changes outlined in the discussion paper include:
- A mandatory registration system by which all of the state’s 340,000-plus pools are required to be registered.
- Under the new registration system, pool owners would be required to have their pool inspected for safety every two years, or when buying or selling the property.
- Fines of up to $2200 would apply for pool owners who fail to have their pool inspected.
The sweeping changes would be in stark contrast to the current low-level regulations in force, and many hope they may be able to finally put an end to the tragic backyard fatalities that seem to happen each and every year.
The largest question surrounding the new plan is how cash-strapped local councils will be able to afford to cover the costs of all the inspections, and so far the NSW state government seems to be avoiding suggesting anything that may resemble increased costs for pool owners.
The Royal Life Saving Society of NSW has come out in support of the changes, but has also questioned the affordability of the project, as without a viable budget to back up the changes, it is feared the announced proposals may prove to be nothing more than a nice idea.
While it is worth giving anything a try in order to prevent further deaths from taking place, it seems that further education is needed before Australian families will be doing all they can to be pool safe.
NSW is clearly not the only state in Australia needing to take drastic measures to try and end the spate of backyard tragedies, and it remains to be seen what other parts of the country may do to make positive changes in their communities.
The most likely way the inspection system could work is if the bill is passed on almost entirely to pool owners, and most would probably be willing to pay for the inspections if it helped keep everyone safe. However, for pool owners who simply can’t afford to pay for inspections, the proposed changes may spell the death of their backyard paradise.
Some believe that the stricter laws may even lead to the resurgence of the community swimming pool, many of which have closed due to funding cuts across Australia over the past 10 years.