By Julian Bajkowski
The New South Wales government has launched a spring offensive on accidental drownings and will introduce new laws that more strictly regulate safety compliance for an estimated 340,000 backyard pools in the state.
Local Government Minister Don Page has announced that the O’Farrell government will now compel home-owners to place their pools on a new mandatory statewide register of pools that will underpin a raft of new safety compliance obligations.
The tough new measures come in response to child drownings which remain stubbornly high as a cause of death among infants and toddlers.
Under the new laws, property owners must “self-certify” that their pools are compliant with the new regulations.
The state government has also put the onus on councils to develop what it calls a “locally appropriate and affordable inspection program in consultation with communities.”
However the sting in the new regulations comes in the form of requirements for owner, home vendors and lessors in “that any property with a swimming pool must be inspected and registered as compliant before that property can be sold or leased.”
And while self registration of pools is free, any failure to register a pool could result in fines of up to $2200 for owners.
Units, flats serviced apartments and tourist and visitor accommodation premises that have shared pools have also been targeted under the new scheme through new mandatory periodic inspections.
Mr Page said that pool owners will have 12 months to register and self-certify their pools and comply with current regulations.
A spokesman for the Local Government minister said that it was expected that the new laws would be introduced by in the spring session of parliament which ends on November 29th.
“Children’s safety is paramount, and very young children are most at risk,’’ Mr Page said.
“Whilst proper supervision is critical, it is important that every pool owner takes responsibility to make sure their pool complies with current regulations.’’
The government has estimated that an average of six children a year drown in backyard swimming pools in NSW, while a further 36 children a year suffer permanent brain injury as a result of pool accidents.
Mr Page’s statement cited research he claims indicated that “by increasing compliance with pool barrier requirements the rate of infant death by drowning could be reduced by up to 41 per cent.”
“It is totally unacceptable that NSW is overrepresented in national backyard swimming pools statistics,” Mr Page said.
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