Pools & spas (INFO 039)

There are a number of considerations to explore before building or erecting a swimming pool, spa or wading pool. The Building Act 1975 defines a swimming pool as an excavation or structure:

  1. Capable of being filled with water to a depth of 300 millimetres or more.
  2. Capable of being used for swimming, bathing, wading, paddling or other human aquatic activities.
  3. Used, designed, manufactured or adapted for the purpose mentioned above, despite its current use.

This includes spas and portable or inflatable pools (other than portable wading pools). It does not include:

 

Pool location considerations

When deciding the location of your new swimming pool there are relevant codes to consider that could impact on your desired location and requirements for further approvals. There are both above ground and below ground issues to consider with pool locations.

An outdoor pool needs to be located in accordance with the relevant Queensland Development Code requirements, generally:

(a) where the vertical distance to the pool coping above the finished ground level is not more than 1.2m – 1.5m distance from the water to the road frontage; or

(b) where a solid wall or fence at least 1.8m high above finished ground level is constructed between the water and the road frontage and the top of the wall or fence is at least 1.0m above the top of the coping of the pool – no requirement.

(a) 1.5m; or

(b) Where a solid wall or fence is constructed to prevent water entry onto adjoining lots, at least 1.8m high above finished ground level, is erected between the swimming pool and the boundary of the lot and the top of the wall or fence is at least 1.0m above the top of the coping of the pool - the pool may be built closer than 1.5m to the side boundary.

 

Building approvals

If you determine that a building approval is required, you can lodge your building application with Council's building certifier or a private certifier. Should you choose to engage a private certifier, please contact them directly in relation to their requirement for supporting documentation and fees.

How to lodge an application

To lodge your application with Council's building certifier, please complete Application DA Form 2 and return to Council, along with the required supporting documentation (see CL 014 Swimming Pool and Swimming Pool Safety Barrier Class 10b Checklist) and the current fee.

The time frames for a building approval for a swimming pool and safety barrier will typically be six months. The final inspection must be carried out and a Form 17 – Final Inspection Certificate, issued by a building certifier within that time.

Temporary fences during construction

 

Plumbing approvals

Backwash discharge from new pools should be connected to the sewer system if one exists in your area (alternative arrangements are to be made in non-sewered areas). Such a connection must be carried out by a licensed plumber. Also, Council's plumbing inspectors may need to inspect the work before covering over.

A plumbing approval may be required prior to the commencement of any work. Please contact Council for further information.

 

Additional information

Pool fence responsibility

Who is responsible for ensuring that a pool fence on residential land is compliant?

The owner of the property is responsible for ensuring that a swimming pool and/or spa and pool fence on their land remains compliant.

Who is responsible for ensuring that a pool fence on residential land is compliant when the house is tenanted?

On a tenanted property, the owner of the pool is responsible for ensuring that their swimming pool and/or spa and pool fence is compliant, however in some cases an Enforcement Notice and Penalty Infringement Notice may be issued to the property owner and tenants.

Where there is a swimming pool onsite, tenants also have a responsibility to ensure compliance with the pool safety standard by making sure that the pool gate is not left/kept open and that there are no objects nearby the pool fence that would allow children to access the pool.

However, if a person who is renting a property establishes a portable pool onsite that falls under definition of regulated pool, then they are responsible for obtaining a development approval for building work, erecting a compliant pool safety barrier and obtaining a Form 17 – Final Inspection Certificate prior to filling the pool.

For a shared pool (i.e. motels, units, caravan parks) the owner and/or manager/body corporate must ensure that the pool safety barrier is compliant and maintained at all times in accordance with the pool fence standard and a valid Form 23 Compliance Certificate displayed as close as practicable to the pool entrance or at the main entrance of the building.

Can Council issue on-the-spot fines for breaches of the pool fencing requirements?

Yes. The Queensland State Government on 01 November 2003 enacted legislation that allows Councils to issue on-the-spot fines for breaches of the swimming pool fencing standards.

At present penalties of up to $189,560 and on-the-spot fines of up to $2,846 can be imposed on pool owners if their pool safety barrier does not comply with the law and a development approval for building work for the pool has not been issued.

Related document

INFO 039 Swimming Pools and Pool Safety Barriers Information Sheet

Pool safety

Please visit the Queensland Government Department of Housing and Public Works website for detailed information regarding pool safety regulations, Pool Safety Council and the Pool Safety Register.

Pool laws and pool safety certificates

Under the current swimming pool safety laws:

Local government role in pool safety compliance

Local government has obligations, responsibilities and powers relating to compliance with Queensland's pool safety laws, including:

This information is general advice only. Please seek specific advice regarding your situation by contacting Council.

Pool fences & safety barriers

It is a pool owner's responsibility to ensure that the pool safety barrier is compliantly maintained, that it is kept in good condition and that the pool gate is kept closed. Drowning is the leading cause of accidental death for children aged under 5, and authorities take the design and installation of the pool safety barrier extremely seriously.

There is now one pool safety standard (Queensland Development Code Mandatory Part 3.4), that replaced 11 different standards on December 5, 2010.

Pool fences and safety barriers commonly fail because:

Child safety around pools

The Queensland Government's annual pool safety awareness campaign calls on parents, those supervising children and pool owners to follow the ABC of pool safety:

The number of pools in Queensland has more than doubled since 1991. Child drownings have halved since Queensland introduced swimming pool safety laws in 1991. The Queensland Injury Surveillance Unit estimates that the pool safety legislation has prevented at least 70 toddler drownings. However, a significant number of children are still drowning in swimming pools.

Did you know?

Source: the Queensland Department of Housing and Public Works website, accessed June 2012.

Related information

Queensland Department of Housing and Public Works website

Building Act 1975

Queensland Building and Construction Commission website

Pool health

A working filtration and chlorination system must be maintained whether or not the pool is in use to ensure that:

Portable, inflatable & wading pools

Portable or inflatable pools are required to meet all the requirements of a swimming pool if it meets the definition of a pool. By definition a pool is:

  1. Capable of being filled with water to a depth of 300 millimetres or more.
  2. Capable of being used for swimming, bathing, wading, paddling or other human aquatic activities.
  3. Used, designed, manufactured or adapted for the purpose mentioned above, despite its current use.

Portable or inflatable pools that meet these criteria require a pool safety barrier. This applies even if the portable or inflatable pool is only used for short periods of time and at other times stored away in a shed. It also applies if the pool is not always erected in the same location. 

Swimming pools require for a pool and pool safety barrier to be constructed. To undertake this construction a development approval for building work is to be obtained and a Form 17 Final Certificate issued by the building certifier prior to filling the pool. A fence must be installed around the pool in accordance with the relevant standards.

Portable wading pools

A portable wading pool is defined* as:

As long as the structure complies fully with the definition of a portable wading pool within the Building Act 1975, it does not require a pool fence or a development approval for building work.

* References

Building Act 1975

Swimming pool, spa pool and safety barriers frequently asked questions

I have a portable (inflatable) pool that can be filled with water to a depth of 400mm but has a volume of less than 2,000 litres. Do I have to fence this pool?

Yes, and it requires building approval.

I have a portable pool that does not fall within the definition of a portable wading pool. However, the portable pool is only used for about three months in the middle of summer. At other times, it is stored away in a shed. In addition, the pool is not always erected in the same place in the yard. Do I need a fence around the pool when it is in use?

Yes, and it requires building approval.

I have a portable pool that can be filled to a depth of 500mm and therefore, does not fall within the definition of a portable wading pool. However, I only ever fill it to a depth of not more than 300mm. Does this pool need to be fenced?

Yes, and it requires building approval.

Does an indoor swimming pool require a pool fence?

Yes. An indoor swimming pool safety barrier must comply with the pool fencing standards which may require a pool fence and requires approval.

Does a swimming pool, spa or pool fence require a development approval for building work?

Yes. A pool, spa and pool fencing requires a development approval for building work and inspections by a licensed building certifier, per Clause 21 of the Building Act 1975 and Schedule 1 of the Building Regulation 2006. A Form 17 Final Inspection Certificate or a Form 16 for Temporary Fencing is to be issued prior to filling the pool. Access forms here.

I plan to put a portable spa on a deck with a lockable lid and attached to the house. Do I need to fence the spa pool?

Yes. A spa pool, whether portable or fixed, comes under the definition of a swimming pool. The only exception is if the spa pool is classed as an indoor swimming pool and is totally enclosed by building walls, or is on a deck or roof top of a building and is only accessible from the inside of the building. 

I am constructing an above ground pool and take away the ladder when not in use; do I need a pool fence?

Yes. Pool filters near pools and access aids (ladders and the like) must be fenced in accordance with the regulations.

In order to comply with the pool fencing laws and Australian Standards, the sides of the above ground pool may in some circumstances form part of a compliant pool barrier if they have a minimum height of 1.2m from ground level and incorporate no climbable members on the outside (e.g. braceless pools).

What plumbing regulations apply to new pools?

Backwash is to discharge to sewer, or if in non-sewered area, suitable alternative arrangements are to be made. A licensed plumber must connect the backwash to the sewer and/or make any alterations to the house drains. A formForm 4 must be submitted to the owner and Plumbing Industry Council by the plumber when the work is completed. Suitable backflow prevention on water supply is required to be installed by a licensed person.

What is the recommended horizontal separation distance from a subsurface land application area?

What is the recommended separation distance from surface irrigation land application for a greywater treatment plant or an on-site sewerage treatment plant?

6m from the water edge of a swimming pool for secondary or advanced effluent

Do I require a plumbing approval?

Depending on the method of backwash discharge, a plumbing approval may be required prior to the commencement of any work. Please contact Building & Compliance - Plumbing Section on 131 872 for information.

I am constructing a pool on a rural property; do I need pool fencing?

Yes. The swimming pool safety legislation applies to all regulated pools, whether constructed in town or on rural land. Therefore a building approval must be obtained for the pool which includes a compliant swimming pool safety barrier. The pool and barrier must be inspected and certified by a building certifier in accordance with the regulations.

I am constructing a pool and want to use my boundary fence as part of the pool fence. Will the fencing laws allow that?

Yes. The pool fencing laws will allow the property boundary fence (dividing fence as per Dividing Fences Act and Building Act 1975) to form part of the pool fence. However, it must comply with the standards detailed in the QLD Development Code MP 3.4. It must also be difficult for a young child to dig through or under the fence. For example, the surface should be natural ground, concrete, gravel, lawn or pavers.

Climbable objects are not permitted within the stipulated 900mm Non-Climbable Zone (NCZ) or 1,200mm clear area on the inside of the fence. Please refer to the QLD Development Code MP 3.4 for full details and illustrations regarding compliance.

Climbable objects are not permitted within the stipulated 900mm Non-Climbable Zone (NCZ). Please refer to the QLD Development Code MP 3.4 for full details and illustrations regarding compliance.

As demonstrated in MP 3.4, a climbable object can take the form of:

Pool fences made of perforated materials or mesh must comply with the AS1926.1 and AS1926.2.

Even where the boundary fence is suitable for use as part of the pool fence, it may still be necessary to isolate the house from the pool area with additional fencing. If the boundary fence exists and does not satisfy the fence standards, it cannot be used as part of the pool fence.

Where on my property can I locate my pool and fence?

There are regulatory matters which must be considered before siting a swimming pool and fence, such as:

Pool safety certificate

How do I get a pool safety certificate?

A pool safety certificate can only be issued by a pool safety inspector and has a unique identification number issued by the Pool Safety Council and registered on the QLD State Government Pool Safety Register.

How do I check if a pool safety certificate has been issued for a property?

Search the Pool Safety Register or contact the Pool Safety Council.

Where can I find a pool safety inspector and how can I check if the pool safety inspector is licensed?

Pool safety inspectors can be private or government officers and are issued with an identification card with a unique pool safety inspector number by the Pool Safety Council. You can search the State Pool Safety Register or contact the Pool Safety Council for details of pool safety inspectors.

Pool fence

Can a pool safety inspector do the minor repairs or maintenance to the pool fence?

Only an unrestricted pool safety inspector (i.e. an inspector with a QBSA Licence) can undertake minor works in accordance with Schedule 2B of the Building Regulations 2006. A restricted pool safety inspector cannot.

Can I fix or do minor repairs on my pool fence?

Yes, but only in accordance with Schedule 2C of the Building Regulations 2006. Works outside this then a development approval for building work may need to be obtained from a building certifier.

I am about to sign a contract/lease on a property with a pool, should they have a form 23?

Depending on your contractual terms and conditions, if a form 23 compliance certificate has not been issued for the pool on the property and has not been registered with the Pool Safety Council you must be provided with a Form 36 – Notice of no pool safety certificate.

A Form 36 informs the purchaser that the pool safety barrier is to be upgraded to comply with the current pool fencing standards. In these circumstances a Form 23 Compliance Certificate must be obtained by no later than 90 days after the date of settlement.

Where a Form 36 is relied upon, the responsibility for obtaining a Form 23 – Pool Safety Certificate is with the new owner of the property.

As of 1 December 2010, all non-shared tenanted properties cannot use this form and a current Form 23 must be obtained prior to leasing the property, however it may be used as applicable to residential properties with a shared pool.

I have a Form 17 issued for a swimming pool and fence; do I have to get a Form 23 Compliance Certificate?

If the Form 17 Final Certificate was issued more than 2 years ago or the pool approved before 1 December 2009 a Form 23 Pool Safety Certificate is not required. If this is not the case, then you are required to obtain a Form 23 Pool Safety Certificate by no later than 30 November 2015, unless the property is sold or leased earlier.

If I have a Form 23 do I need to get a Form 17?

A Form 17 is a final inspection certificate for swimming pools and fences and must be obtained in accordance with the development approval conditions and the Building Act 1975 by the building certifier.

What happens if I think my pool fence does not comply?

If you have requested a pool safety compliance inspection and the pool fence does not comply you will either:

Minor works can be undertaken in order to comply with the current pool safety standards in accordance with the Building Regulations 2006 Schedule 2B and/or 2C.

I believe I have a pool fence that needs to be upgraded. What do I do?

What happens if I don't have a development approval for building work?

The owner of the pool is required to have a development approval for building work and a Form 17 Final Inspection Certificate for a permanent fence or a Form 16 Aspect Certificate for a temporary pool fence issued by a building certifier prior to filling the pool with water. If the Local Government becomes aware of an unlawful building and structure or a non-compliant pool safety barrier they may inspect the pool for compliance and undertake enforcement action accordingly.

On the spot fines can be issued for swimming pools and safety barriers where filled to a depth greater than 300mm without a development approval and a Form 17 Final Inspection Certificate from a Building Certifier.

Forms can be accessed via the Department of Housing and Public Works website.

Part of my pool fence is the boundary fence, do I have to upgrade and who pays for the upgrade?

The pool owner is required to maintain the pool safety barrier/fence in accordance with the fencing standards. The costs associated with constructing, altering, repairing, replacing or maintaining a regulated pool's fence is attributable by the owner of the land where the pool is situated.

Where the dividing fence is bounding pool areas on both sides then the cost is attributable to both pool owners. All other parts of the dividing fence that does not form part of the pool safety barrier are as prescribed under the Neighbourhood Dispute Resolution Act 2011.

If I remove or demolish my existing fence or it is in disrepair, do I have to put up a new one?

Yes. A swimming pool must always have a compliant pool safety barrier. If a substantial portion of the fence is demolished or removed, it must be replaced with a new fence. The new fence must comply with the current pool fencing standards.A development approval for building work may be required for the changes to the pool safety barrier. Please contact Council's Building Certification section, prior to commencing any work, to discuss whether a building approval is required for the changes to your pool fence.

I have a complying pool fence that has been inspected and approved by a Building Certifier. However, works/alterations by my neighbour on their side of the fence make the fence non-complying with the Australian Standard. For example, a barbeque, table, chairs, retaining wall sited within the 900mm now falls within the 900mm Non-climbable Zone (NCZ) and 1200mm clear area. Am I required to make alterations to my pool fencing to bring it back into compliance with the Australian Standard?

Yes. The pool owner is required to maintain a compliant pool safety barrier. See the Queensland Development Code M.P. 3.4 for illustrations of compliance. A building approval may be required for works to alter the fence.

Pool fence exemptions

Under what circumstances can a person apply for an exemption of the pool fence standards?

A person can apply to Council for an exemption where it would not be practicable to achieve compliance, because of a disability of an occupant of the building, or where other circumstances mean that it is impracticable to have a pool fence installed.If an exemption is given, Council may impose any conditions it considers appropriate to prevent an unsupervised child gaining access to the pool area or may require that the pool owner obtain a development approval for building work for the pool safety barrier to incorporate an alternative solution.

All exemptions issued prior to 1 December 2010 are no longer valid and therefore an exemption application must be approved by Council to meet compliance with the legislation.

To apply for an exemption, please complete a Form 28 – Application for pool safety standard exemption and lodge it to Council along with the required supporting documentation and current fee.Some Local Governments may not offer this service but may refer you to a Building Certifier for an alternate solution to the pool fencing standards. This alternative solution/ exemption must be registered on the Pool Safety Register.

What happens if the reason for the exemption being granted in the first place no longer applies, for example, if the person with the disability no longer occupies the building?

Council has the right to revoke an exemption granted under the Building Act 1975. The owner of the pool must ensure the pool fence conforms to the current pool fencing standards. If the fence needs to be substantially changed to make it conform, a new fence to the current standards is required to be constructed in accordance with a development approval for building work issued by a Building Certifier.

Pool signage

Who is responsible for ensuring a sign is placed near the site warning neighbours that a pool is being constructed on my property?

Both the pool owner and the pool builder are responsible for the sign. The sign must remain in place until a compliant pool fence has been built and until a licensed Building Certifier has certified compliance with the pool fence standards.

The sign must:

"DANGER

SWIMMING POOL UNDER CONSTRUCTION

KEEP CHILDREN OUT"

Who is responsible for ensuring a sign, with instructions on how to undertake cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), is placed near a swimming pool?

The pool owner is responsible for the sign. It must be displayed in a conspicuous place and must be in place for the issue of a Form 23 Pool Safety Certificate, Form 17 Final Inspection Certificate or a Form 16 Aspect Certificate for temporary pool fencing.

What details do warning signs and CPR signs need to contain?

A CPR sign (as adopted by the Australian Resuscitation Council) must be weatherproof and durable. It must detail the procedures necessary to undertake cardiopulmonary resuscitation. Please be aware that in some cases the CPR sign may actually provide a foothold for a child to access the pool, so it's placement must be carefully considered.

Ornamental pools, dams, creeks and water features

I have a fish pond/ornamental pond. Does this need to be fenced?

No. There is no requirement to fence a fish pond or ornamental pond. The pool fencing laws, contained in the Building Act 1975 and Queensland Development Code MP 3.4 relate only to regulated pools for Class 1, 2, 3 and 4 buildings.

Do I need a development approval for building work for a fish pond, ornamental pool or water feature?

Generally, a building permit is not required, however, depending on the size of fish pond, ornamental pool or water feature you may be required to obtain an Operational Works Permit for excavating more than 1m of foundation material.

Does a dam require a pool fence and approval?

No. Dams, rivers creeks or other similar watercourses are not required to be fenced under the pool safety laws. The pool fencing laws, contained in the Building Act 1975, only apply to regulated swimming pools.

Additional information

Where can I obtain further information about pool fencing?

For further information and downloadable copies of legislation and guidelines pertaining to pools, spas and pool fencing standards visit the Queensland Building and Construction Commission or telephone the Pool Safety Council on 1800 340 634.

Last Updated: Thursday, 19 September 2019 15:01