9 Dec 2018

Pool safety laws too lax - doctor

12:24 pm on 9 December 2018

A leading paediatrician wants a reversal of pool fencing law changes, saying they have made safety too slack and children's lives are at risk.

A swimming pool with gate access.

Photo: RNZ / Cole Eastham-Farrelly

The Auckland Council is telling pool owners to make their pools safe as summer approaches in order to prevent drowning.

Starship Hospital's medical and community director Mike Shepherd, said changes to pool laws in 2016 had made safety requirements too lax and they should be strengthened again.

The changes included allowing pool covers to be a barrier to the pool instead of fences in some cases.

And they gave local councils more discretion over whether to insist a fence was needed.

Dr Shepherd said he was worried as summer approaches that New Zealand children would die.

At least one child a month suffered brain damage from non-fatal drowning, he said.

"Anyone who's looked after a toddler knows that you can't be watching them 24/7, that they move fast and that drowning can happen in a matter of seconds and so we need to make sure that our environments are designed to help keep our children safe."

Summer was a nervous time for many emergency doctors, Dr Shepherd said.

"These events are devastating and can be prevented by relatively simple measures whether it is fencing play areas or fencing off pools, I think that is the right thing to do."

Auckland Council said pool owners should check gates were closed properly, and keep them closed, keep climbable objects away from fences and make sure ladders were out of elevated pools when not being used.