Hundreds of thousands of backyard pool and spa owners across the state will have to fork out hundreds of dollars every few years in the wake of new safety laws.
And if they don’t they are at risk of receiving hefty fines.
But authorities are confident the process — aimed at minimising the number of young children drowning — is achievable, despite the onus of collecting information regarding the 220,000 private pools and spas across the state being placed on councils.
The State Government has changed rules concerning safety barriers and fencing around private swimming pools and spas — and owners who don’t comply within six months could face a fine.
There have been 27 recorded fatal drownings of young children in private swimming schools and spas across the state between January 2000 and May 2019.
The Coroner found that in 20 of those deaths, the safety barrier was non-compliant and consequently likely to have played a role in the death.
Pools and spas must be registered with councils by June 1, 2020.
After registering, owners will then also have to get a certificate regarding the safety of their pool barrier within one to three years, depending on the age of the pool. It will then have to be officially rechecked every four years.
When Leader contacted half a dozen companies, quoted prices for pool inspections fluctuated wildly.
One in Kew quoted $800 plus GST, a Mont Albert business said “about $1300” and a national-based company said it didn’t do it.
Another company said it didn’t do it at all, while two others said they didn’t do it but would consider it in the future.
All of this will come at the cost of owners. The maximum fee to register pools and spas with council is $31.84, although if the construction date is unknown, a further information search fee of $47.24 can be applied.
However, many councils contacted by Leader are quoting flat $79 registration fees — combining the two.
Those who do not register run the risk of receiving an on-the-spot fine of $330 or a penalty of up to $1652.20.
Those pools or spas with a depth of more than 30cm that must be registered include relocatable swimming pools and spas built for more than three consecutive days, indoor pools, hot tubs and bathing or wading pools.
Small inflatable wading pools that do not require any assembly do not have to be registered, as well as the likes of fish ponds or dams.
Swimming Pool and Spa Association of Victoria chief executive Chris Samartzis said the important thing for owners to bear in mind was that the barriers would be assessed on the standards of the time at which they were built.
“For example, if a pool was built in 2008, it would be assessed against 2007 Australian standards,” he said.
“There is confusion. People are worrying that you have to build a wall around your pool — you don’t.”
Mr Samartzis said the main issues would be simple maintenance of the barriers and the self-locking or self-latching gates, as well as making sure there were no climbable objects such as pot plants or barbecues up against the barrier.
“Wear and tear over time can destroy latches or cause them to be in not good working order,” he said.
“If you maintain your barrier on a yearly basis, very little will go wrong.”
Planning Minister Richard Wynne said the number of children drowning in non-compliant backyard pools was “tragic and unacceptable”.
“That’s why these new regulations are necessary,” he said.
“We owe it to our children to do everything we can to make sure our pools and spas are safe.”