Pools can be great fun but they have the potential to cause danger. There are more than 4,500 swimming pools in Port Stephens, making pool safety a big community issue.
Despite your best efforts to ensure your pool or spa is as safe as possible, accidents can still happen and drowning of young children can happen quickly and silently. When using a swimming pool, children should always be supervised and young children should be taught to float and swim at the earliest possible age. You can contact one of Council's Aquatic and Leisure Centres to organise potentially life-saving lessons.
Council wants you to enjoy your pool and has your safety in mind, which is why the below information applies to all swimming pools
If you are thinking of building a swimming pool or installing a spa on your property, you must first seek approval from Council for the erection of any swimming pool/spa capable of containing 2000 litres of water or more. For more information or to fill out an application, Council's Development Applications webpage is a good place to start.
Swimming pool fencing and gates
All pools able to be filled to a depth of 300mm must be surrounded by fencing that meets height and measurement requirements, including blow up pools. In NSW, a pool fence must:
- Be at least 1.2m high (as measured from the finished ground level)
- Be at least 1.8m high if forming part of a boundary fence
- Not leave a gap at the bottom bigger than 10cm from the finished ground level
- Not have gaps of more than 10cm between any vertical bars in the fence
- If containing horizontal climbable bars, have these spaced at least 90cm apart
The gate compartment of a pool fence must:
- Be self-closing, self-latching and must be closed at all times
- Open outwards from the pool area
- No double gates are permitted
- Latch release mechanism to be 1.5-metres above the ground except where a shield is used. If a shield is used the latch is positioned on the pool side near the top of the gate in accordance with Australian Standard AS-1926. The shield makes it necessary to reach over the gate to release the latch mechanism
- Gate width is to be kept to a minimum (no more than 1-metre) to minimise the possibility of the weight of the gate causing the gate to drop with the self-latching mechanism failing
When installing a swimming pool fence, it must comply with the Australian Standard 1926.1-2012 Swimming Pool Safety – Part 1 Safety barriers for swimming pools. The standards can be viewed free of charge by appointment at Council. Alternatively you can buy your own copy of the Standard from the SAI Global InfoStore.
Spa pools and baths
Under the Swimming Pools Act, access to spa's by young children is required to be restricted by a child-resistant barrier or a lockable child-safe structure (such as a lid) when not in use. The safety requirements apply for swimming pools also apply for spas. Further information can be found on the NSW Government Fair Trading site.
Registration and certification
In NSW, all pool owners are required to register their pool online in a state wide Swimming Pool Register. Prior to registering, swimming pool owners are required to self-assess and state in the register that, to the best of their knowledge, their pool complies with the applicable standard. To help you register your pool properly, download the Swimming Pool Register's self-assessment checklist. In some cases, Council will be required to carry out inspections of property's that have pools. Council's Swimming Pool Inspection Program was adopted by Council in October 2013 and the primary objectives of the program include:
- The inspection of a swimming pool may be not be required if it has a current certificate of compliance (valid for 3 years from the date of issue)
- Council may carry out an inspections where the owner requests an inspection
- Council must carry out an inspection of a swimming pool if the request to Council is an application for a Compliance Certificate
- Council must determine applications for Swimming Pool Compliance Certificates which will be compulsory from April 2016 for all pools associated with property for sale and lease
- Council must investigate a complaint made to it in writing that alleges a contravention of the Swimming Pools Act 1992
You can download the Swimming Pool Certificate of Compliance form from our A-Z forms page.
To organize a council inspection of your pool, please contact:
Development Assessment and Compliance Section
(02) 4980 0115
Public pools and spas
Public swimming pools and public spa pools are pools to which members of the public are admitted, whether free of charge, on payment of a fee or otherwise. These include pools located at:
- guest houses
- resorts, holiday units, or similar facility for the use of guests
It does not include pools situated at private residential premises (unless such a pool is used by members of the public, ie learn-to-swim pools.)
Public pool registration
All public swimming pools and spa pools need to be registered with Council. Registration is easy – simply complete the following Notification of Public Swimming Pool or Spa Pool form.
Any person(s) found to be operating a public pool without having notified Council could be liable for a fine of a maximum 10 penalty units.
All persons operating a public pool must undertake:
- Chemical testing
- Microbiological testing
- Keep records (minimum six months) showing the above
Further information is available on this in Public swimming pool and spa pool information booklet.
Council have also produced some sample public pool daily log sheets to assist pool operating documenting the tests they must carry out.
Council inspection program
Council undertakes mandatory inspections of public swimming and spa pools as recreational water can be a favourable environment for many different types of pathogens such as viruses, bacteria, fungi, amoebae, cysts and other parasites to thrive. Dirty pools, warm pools, aerated pools, pools with too little disinfectant, pools with too much stabiliser and chlorine disinfected pools where the pH is too high (or a combination of all of these) can easily lead to infection transmission.
Due to potential public health risks from pools, the Public Health Act 2010 and associated regulations were introduced in New South Wales which introduced prescribed operating requirements for public swimming pools and spa pools. These cover matters such as temperature, disinfection systems, disinfection concentrations, pH, alkalinity, testing and record keeping. These are all things that pool operators must understand as without knowledge in these areas the risks to pool users increase greatly. These are the things Council check as part of the swimming pool inspection program.
Yes! (in most cases)
Under the Swimming Pools Act 1992 the owner of a swimming pool has the responsibility to ensure that the pool is at all times surrounded by a complying child-resistant pool safety barrier.
Pool safety barriers must be maintained in a good state of repair, as an effective and safe barrier restricting access to the pool.
Any swimming pool capable of being filled with water to a depth 300mm or more must have a swimming pool fence.
Yes! (in most cases)
You must have building approval for the construction or erection of any swimming pool/spa capable of containing 2000 litres of water or more - this can be gained from Council.
Providing your project meets the specific development standards outlined in the policy, approval from Council is not required. More information about exempt development can be found through the NSW Department of Planning and Environment website.
Yes and No.
Your spa bath must be either appropriately fenced like swimming pools or you must ensure that the spa is covered and secured by a lockable child-safe structure (such as a door, lid, grille or mesh) when the spa is not in use.
Yes! (in some cases)
Pool fencing requirements for swimming pools also apply to large inflatable pools, 300mm or more in height.
All pools require a resuscitation chart/warning notice to be displayed in a prominent position in the immediate vicinity of the pool.
As the owner of a pool you can request an inspection of your pool by Council to ensure it is compliant.
There are some instances where it is mandatory for Council to carry out inspections of residential pools. These especially include when issuing a certificate of compliance for the sale or lease of residential properties that contain pools. Contact Council to establish whether your pool requires an inspection.
There are a number of ways that you can ensure the safety of your pool. As a pool owner, you must be aware of these to ensure that your pool and its area comply with national standards and reduce the risk of accidents. Some of these include:
- Supervise children at all times when using the swimming pool
- Ensure you children participate in learn to swim classes at a young age
- Check there are adequate pool safety barriers in place, separating the pool from the residence, adjoining properties and the neighbourhood
- Ensure all of the pool safety barriers are maintained and operating (eg check gates are self-closing and self-latching)
- Make sure pool gates are kept closed at all times
- Keep articles, objects and structures at least 900mm clear of the pool fence at all times, (eg chairs, pot plants)
- Display the appropriate safety signage.
For more recommendations and requirments to ensure your pool safety, take a look at the Make It Safe campaign by the Royal Life Saving Society.
If you have any questions or concerns about the compliance of your swimming pool or spa, please contact:
Development Assessment and Compliance Section
(02) 4988 0115