Hunter pools more likely to be unsafe than safe

NOT COMPLIANT: Hunter pool fences are overwhelmingly failed on first inspection. Common reasons for failure are gates that don’t self-lock or self-close, climbable objects outside the pool fence and not clearly displaying a CPR sign.More than half of Hunter pools are failing their first safety inspection, a survey of local governments has shown.

Figures obtained by theNewcastle Heraldshowthat Maitland pools are the least compliant in the region, with 86 per cent of pool fences failed after first inspection sinceJuly, 2016.

The rate remains high in Cessnock, with more than 71 per cent of inspected fences foundnon-compliant during the 2015/16 financial year.

Non-compliance rates were significantly lower in Lake Macquarie, where there was an even split between pass and fail rates.

However, Royal Life Saving has named Lake Macquarie as a NSW “blackspot” for backyard pool drownings in the 0-5 age bracket.

Mayor Kay Fraser said Lake Macquarie was“proactive” in pool safety, with “a range of awareness and safety campaigns” being rolled out across the local government area. She said council wasworking with Royal Life Saving to help reduce backyard pool drownings.

Newcastle was the only council that returned a positive compliance rate, with more than 57 per cent of pools being passed.

Port Stephens Council were unable to provide conclusive figures, but said in a statement that a high percentage of pools were failed.

All councils provided mostly the same reasons for non-compliance, with faulty gates being the most common reasonfor failing, including latches that did not self-lock or self-close.

Other pools were found non-compliant because of climbable objects, such as pot plants or barbecues near the outside of the fence. A CPR sign not clearly displayed in the pool area was another common reason for failure.

When told about high rates of non-compliance, Kids Alive –Do the Five founder Laurie Lawrence said he was “shocked”.

He reminded pool owners that“the gate is the weakest link, that’s why you’ve got to make sure you’ve got the very best hardware”.

Despite the Hunter’s high failure rates, they were still lower than anecdotal evidence from Royal Life Saving, which suggested up to 90 per cent of pools across NSWwere failed on first inspection.

However, Mr Lawrence said the emphasis on fencing legislation and compliance would not remove the risk of drownings.He called for more pool safety education programs and for owners to take responsibility for pool safety.

Michael Ilinsky from Royal Life Saving has urged pool owners waiting to have their pools reassessed to keep kids away from the area.

He said owners who have had their pool found non-compliant needed to have it fixed as soon as possible.