Swimming pools are part of most people’s wish-list when it comes to their dream home. The past 10 years has seen that dream realised more and more with an average of 1,800 new pools installed each year across the country taking the number of homes with pools to over 73,000 or around 1 in 20 homes.
That demand and appeal shows itself on the realestate.co.nz website with “swimming pool” being one of the top 6 searches attracting over 400 such searches every week – at present there are close to 3,700 properties for sale on the site which feature a pool.
No surprises there, in the appeal of pools – what is surprising is the incessant focus of our regulators to tell us how we should protect ourselves and our families from what they obviously think is our complete ignorance and stupidity when it comes to pool safety.
You clearly get the impression when you read the current regulations or have a visit from your local authority pool inspector that you have committed a crime in even having a pool, something akin to owning a vicious dog and as such you need to be protected from it for your own safety with a barrage of locks, signs, fences, alarms and search lights.
Now I am in no way making light of the very serious issue of drowning of children in swimming pools. Whilst the latest statistics indicate that the rate of drowning once at a level of over 11 per year has fallen to an average of 4 over the past 7 years – a vast improvement, however anymore than zero is a tragedy.
What gets me as reported today, is the government’s insistence to constantly impose more and more regulations on pool fencing as a means to save lives. There must come a point when someone has to say enough is enough, you cannot regulate our society to death (excuse the pun). We all need to accept personal responsibility – if we really wanted to stop children drowning we would have cover and fence to 3 meters high all body of water over 2 inches deep, because that’s all that is required for a child to drown.
Just as we cannot build fences to protect children from cars on the road, we cannot expect all pool owners to constantly build tighter and tighter security around pools. Added to this fact is the reality that not all of the 73,000 pools are in homes with young children. A statistic I heard last year from a senior official in my local authority when inspecting my pool fence was that over 60% of all drownings are of children in the home, of the balance 75% are of children visiting that home. That leaves 1 in 10 of all drownings the result of children sneaking onto other peoples properties and climbing 1.5 metre fences and then falling in and drowning; given there have been only 4 drownings per year for the past 7 years that means this single occurrence would only happen every 3 years across the whole of NZ.
I know that parents want to protect children and will do everything they can 24 hours per day to protect them from pools, power tools, cars, escalators, bikes, playgrounds and a hundreds other dangers – the fact of the matter is that accidents will happen, regulations will not prevent accidents – people prevent accidents. Lets apply some common sense and not decree yet more fencing regulations for pools.
As an aside I have fitted a pool alarm at the insistence of my local authority in addition to the fence. My initial reaction at the request was dumbfoundedness. However now I have this device I wonder why this is not the primary priority of regulations rather than door locks and fences as an alarm is the first hand signal of a child falling in, and is far less intrusive on the property and the joys of having a pool.