A building permit is required for the construction of all safety barriers and all types of pools and spas capable of holding more than 300mm of water in depth. A permit is also required if you are installing new or altering any part of an existing safety barrier.
A swimming pool or spa is any excavation or structure capable of containing a depth of water greater than 300mm and used principally for swimming, wading, paddling, or the like. This includes any inflatable or temporary swimming pools or a spa that has a lockable cover.
Safety barriers are not required for bird baths, fish ponds, fountains, dams and water storage tanks, however the owner has a duty of care to ensure these are safe.
As an owner of a swimming pool or spa, you are required under the building regulations for ensuring any fence or barrier restricting access to a swimming pool or spa is maintained and operating effectively. A maintenance checklist (also available as a Mobile app) is available from Royal Life Saving Australia. Non-compliance, for any reason, can increase the risk of drowning and lead to prosecution.
Swimming pools, spas and safety barrier checklist(PDF, 35KB)
Between 2000 and May 2019 there were 27 fatal drownings of young children in private swimming pools and spas across Victoria. For every fatal drowning, there are about six more non-fatal incidents, with about 20 per cent of these resulting in long-term behavioural and learning impairment. In response, the State Government is introducing changes to safety barriers and fencing around private swimming pools and spas to reduce incidences of young children drowning.
The Building Amendment (Swimming Pool and Spa) Regulations 2019 will introduce mandatory requirements for owners of private swimming pools or spas to register their pool or spa with their local council. In addition, owners will be required to engage a registered building surveyor or building inspector to inspect and certify the compliance of their safety barrier every three years. Under the regulations, the need for registration would also include relocatable swimming pools and spas erected for more than three consecutive days.
The new regulations were intended to start from 1 December 2019 with all owners of existing swimming pools and spas to have taken action on the mandatory requirements. Council is awaiting the State Government’s decision to adopt the new regulations.
The Amendments to the Act require Council to establish and maintain a swimming pool register that must contain specified information such as date of construction and the applicable barrier standard as prescribed by the regulations relating to swimming pools and spas.
The proposed new regulations now make the owner the primary person responsible for registering their pool or spa, with a requirement to engage a qualified person to perform inspections, and lodge proof of compliance resulting from that inspection with Council within the required timeframe. Periodic mandatory inspections will also be required.
For pools constructed before 14 April 2020, compliance certificates of pool and spa barrier compliance must be lodged with Council by:
- 30 October 2020 for a swimming pool or spa constructed on or before 30 June 1994
- 30 April 2021 for a swimming pool or spa constructed on or after 1 July 1994 and before 1 May 2010
- 29 October 2021 for a swimming pool or spa constructed on or after 1 May 2010
Fees are being introduced to service the scheme and the state intends to fix a ‘maximum fee’ for each step. These were indicated in the draft regulations to be:
- State Maximum Fee Application for registration of swimming pool or spa - $51.24
- Lodgement of Certificate of Compliance - $30.65
- Lodgement of Certificate of non-compliance - $385.06
Permanent safety barriers are required for all permanent or relocatable pools and spas capable of containing a depth of water greater than 300mm, including:
- In-ground swimming pools
- Hot tubs and Jacuzzis
- Indoor swimming pools
- Above-ground swimming pools
- Inflatable and relocatable pools
Note: A lockable lid is not a compliant safety barrier.
While there will be stricter laws on managing swimming pool and spa compliance, the requirement to have safety barriers installed and maintained hasn’t changed. Prior to summer and in readiness for the new requirements to register your pool or spa and have the safety barrier inspected it is recommended that you undertake a pool and spa safety barrier self-assessment to ensure compliance.
For a copy of the Victorian Building Authorities pool and spa safety barrier self-assessment checklists, please visit: www.vba.vic.gov.au/consumers/safety-guides/swimming-pools
Council is now awaiting the final decision of the State Government to approve the new regulations. We are preparing useful information and tools for property owners who have pools and spas to assist them in registering with us once the State Government has confirmed its approval.
We will provide further information to the community once the new regulations have been approved.