The NSW Minister for Local Government Don Page says it is too expensive for councils to inspect every pool in the State at the present time.
His comments were broadcast on ABC radio following the manslaughter charge being laid against an Armidale man after a toddler wandered into his property and drowned in his backyard pool.
“Somewhere between $200 and $300 per inspection is what the councils are saying. It adds up to be quite an expensive exercise, so we don’t propose at this point in time to insist that councils inspect every pool in their locality,” he says.
The Minister’s office told SPLASH! that they are in possession of a swimming pool discussion paper prepared by the Department of Local Government (DLG), which was the result of wide consultation including information from various Coroners’ reports.
However, Spiros Dassakis of SPASA queries just how wide their consultation has been.
“I’ve written to Don Page five times in five months requesting to be involved in the process. Look at who they have on the committee – people from fisheries but no-one from our industry,” he says.
“Our omission from such an important committee is extremely concerning, especially in light of the many safety initiatives we’ve worked on to improve water safety over the past few years.”
In February, Dassakis sent a detailed submission to the review committee. In the submission he argued (among other things) that the inspection of swimming pools should only be carried out by a trained individual who is able to correctly interpret the legislative instruments as well as understand their interaction when it comes to compliance, making a strong case for relevant and trained pool industry members to take that role.
The DLG discussion paper includes proposals that owners register and certify the pool barrier with a free online centralised register; requirements that owners gain a compliance certificate before selling or leasing a property with a pool; that councils implement an acceptable and affordable swimming pool barrier inspection program; and that councils carry out mandatory inspections for tourist and visitor accommodation and other multiple occupancy developments.
The Minister appealed to parents to ensure children are adequately supervised, and also that they go to the checklist at the Division of Local Government website.
“Every one of the state’s 300,000 pool owners should complete the checklist. We want to emphasise the need to protect vulnerable toddlers and babies, but tough regulations won’t replace parental supervision and vigilance.
He says the main issues are propping gates open, leaving objects close to pool fences and poorly maintained or non-existent pool barriers.