Deadline looms for backyard pools

Living Well | Words: Sue Hewitt | Images: Getty | Posted on 13 October 2020

New safety laws require anyone with a private pool or spa to register it by 1 November.

Victorians with home swimming pools and spas have until 1 November to register them with their local council, or face fines under new safety laws.  

The deadline applies to all private pools and spas with a depth of more than 30 centimetres, including above-ground and inflatable pools. 

After the 1 November deadline, pool and spa owners have one to three years’ grace, depending on the age of the pool, to have their safety barriers inspected by an authorised person and lodge a compliance certificate with the council.  

Kids playing in backyard pool

Victorians with home swimming pools and spas have until 1 November to register them with their local council, or face fines under new safety laws.



The new laws were introduced by the state government last December to make swimming pools and spas safer and help prevent drowning deaths, especially of young children. The original July deadline for registration was pushed back to 1 November due to COVID-19.

Drowning is a major cause of death for children under five and Kidsafe general manager Jason Chambers says most of these deaths occur in private pools.

He says 27 children have died in private pools and spas in Victoria since 2000 and the Coroner found faulty safety barriers were likely to blame in at least 20 of the cases.

Royal Life Saving Australia’s national drowning report shows that in 2019-20, 12 Australian children aged 0 to four years drowned and half of these deaths were in backyard swimming pools. 

“While pool and spa barriers are effective in helping to reduce childhood drowning incidents, a large number of drowning deaths are the result of barriers that are faulty or non-compliant with Australian standards,” Jason says.

“The introduction of measures including the new mandatory registration and inspection system, in combination with existing education efforts, are vital to effectively reduce the rate of childhood drowning in home pools and spas in Victoria.”

A large number of drowning deaths are the result of barriers that are faulty or non-compliant with Australian standards.

Under the laws, owners of all private above-ground and inground pools, spas and hot tubs must register them with their local council, for a fee of $79, by 1 November.  

Registration applies to permanent as well as inflatable pools, indoor and outdoor pools and wading pools or anything that can hold more than 30 centimetres of water. 

Inspections must be carried out by a registered building surveyor, registered building inspector or municipal building surveyor. The Victorian Building Authority, which oversees pool-safety legislation, estimates there are more than 1000 suitably qualified inspectors available across Victoria.  

After the initial inspection, owners must have their safety barriers inspected every four years to ensure continuing compliance. 

The Victorian Building Authority has warned pool owners face council fines of $1650 if they fail to register. 

Planning minister Richard Wynne has explained that after a pool is registered, the owner will be contacted by their local council and told how they can organise an inspection of their safety barrier by a registered practitioner. If the barrier meets safety requirements a compliance certificate will be issued which must then be lodged with the local municipal council.  

Young boy jumping into pool
Two kids playing beside pool in backyard

Twenty-seven children have died in private pools and spas in Victoria since 2000, with faulty safety barriers likely to blame in at least 20 of the cases.


Safety barrier requirements


Precise requirements for safety barriers vary depending on the age of the pool or spa, but as a minimum a barrier must: 

  • Be at least 1.2 metres high 
  • Have a self-closing, self-latching gate (which must never be propped open) 
  • Allow no direct access to the pool from a building via a door 
  • Be clear of any object that children could use to climb to enter the pool area.  

The government says about 100,000 private spas and pools have been registered to date, less than half the total number of pools and spas in Victoria, estimated to be well in excess of 220,000. 

The Australian Institute of Building Surveyors says there are around 300 building surveyors in Victoria able to conduct pool inspections. Costs start at $300 per inspection, depending on distance to be travelled and other factors.   

A spokeswoman for the institute says mandatory inspections are only one part of pool safety and warned that pool owners should be vigilant and sensible all year round.  

“For example, a compliant fence with a locked gate is pointless if chairs, a barbecue or other structures are placed next to the fence enabling a child to climb over it,” she says. 

She warns pool owners to beware of unqualified people claiming to be building surveyors or inspectors and to check their credentials before contracting them to do the inspection work.  
 

Pool compliance deadlines


All pools and spas 

All private pool and spa owners (including above-ground and inflatable pools) must register with the local council by 1 November 2020, regardless of when the pool or spa was built. 

Pools and spas built before 1994 

Must have their pool safety barrier inspected by a registered building surveyor, registered building inspector or municipal building surveyor and lodge a certificate of compliance with their local council by 1 November 2021. 

Pools and spas built between 1 July 1994 and 30 April 2010 

Inspection must be completed and compliance certificates lodge by 1 November 2022. 

Pools and spas built between 1 May 2010 and 31 October 2020 

Inspection must be completed and compliance certificates lodged by 1 November 2023 to be certified as compliant.