Following the release of the Victoria’s Building Amendment (Swimming Pool and Spa) Regulations 2019 Regulatory Impact Statement (RIS), both SPASA Australia and SPASA Victoria have provided submissions to the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP).
While supporting the Victorian Government’s initiatives with pool safety inspections, SPASA Australia has voiced a number of concerns in their submission, including that the timeframe seems to be overly ambitious.
Other key concerns include costs to pool owners, the complexity of the program, the decision to have 79 individual pool registers as opposed to a statewide register as well as not supporting nationally accredited training. Other suggestions by SPASA Australia include accepting spa lockable lids as an acceptable barrier, utilising industry members to help with pool inspections, and that after initially inspecting all pools, there should only be the need to inspect new pools, and to re-inspect existing pools on sale or lease – not every three years as suggested in the RIS.
“We applaud the Victorian Government,” says SPASA Australia COO Spiros Dassakis. “We support sensible reforms to improve safety in and around swimming pools and spas. However, we want to bring into sharp focus some of the possible alternatives which will improve the program’s outcomes.
“Data collected from New South Wales highlights reasons why the Victorian government should consider other alternatives, as can be seen from the New South Wales survey results, which we’ve included in SPASA Australia’s submission,” he says. “It is essential that government adopt the nationally accredited course, as it ultimately has to do with the safety of young children and will be a central requirement for licensing individuals to perform certification of swimming pools and spas.”
Dassakis is sceptical about the timeframe given the large volume of work required before implementation. It is worth noting that New South Wales delayed their scheme twice – eventually implementing it two years after the initial ambitious timeframe.
Victorian pool owners will be required to register their pools by 14 April next year with inspection certificates required by 30 October 2020 (for pools built before 1994), 30 April 2021 (for pools built between 1994 and 2010) or 29 October 2021 (for pools built after 2010).
Based on DELWP’s own survey and experience in other states, SPASA Australia estimates a total of 418,000 inspections will be required between 30 October 2020 and 29 Oct 2021.
In the submission, SPASA Australia suggests the timeframe will be difficult to meet. The RIS consultation ends 6 September 2019. Therefore, feedback that may influence DELWP’s decisions will still need to be considered before finalising policy direction. This process alone should take at least two months.
On top of this, decisions need to be made about who will be eligible to inspect pools and spas and what type of training is appropriate (nationally accredited or non-accredited training). The approved course will then need to have materials contextualised or developed and be promoted and allow for students to enrol and undertake training and pass before being able to apply for accreditation/licensing as an inspector. New inspectors must then set up their businesses, start advertising and commence inspections.
“We believe we can assist the government in making sure they get it right,” says Dassakis. “We both want to achieve the number one objective of improving safety around swimming pools and spas. We are hopeful that DELWP and the VBA will listen to industry feedback and fine tune processes that ultimately will assist the program in Victoria.”
Dassakis says SPASA Australia modelling shows a net consumer expense of more than $750 million over 10 years, and it is critical that the scheme be implemented efficiently.
“Our feedback shouldn’t be taken as criticism,” he says, “but as an objective response, having experience with similar programs in other jurisdictions.”
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Comments from SPASA Victoria
Chris Samartzis is CEO of SPASA Victoria, which was a key member of the Victorian Swimming Pool and Spa Safety Committee and the Community Issue Based Working Group that provided recommendations and strategies to government.
“After many years of campaigning to shape legislation around mandatory barrier inspections, SPASA Victoria was pleased to submit a response on behalf of the industry in Victoria with a view to providing harmonisation between members, government and consumers,” he says.
In their submission to government, SPASA Victoria advocated:
• For a strengthened industry via sensible regulation;
• For a reduction of the burden on consumer demands;
• For lockable spa covers as a secondary option to barriers for consumers;
• Support for a locally accredited pool inspector training course, including a comprehensive CPD program;
• A sustainable capped fee for a one-off registration;
• More onus on councils to provide detailed information and a cohesive register;
• For the introduction of mandatory CPR signage;
• An inspection regime that delivers a sensible and sustainable approach that captures the intent of the legislation.
He says that, notwithstanding the competing demands of various stakeholders, SPASA Victoria has submitted a positive response to the RIS, to ensure a practical outcome that is both workable and sustainable.
“SPASA Victoria will continue to work with the Victorian government to ensure we achieve our joint aim of making pools and spas safer and more enjoyable for all,” he says.
SPASA Victoria’s submission is available to their members on the website.