Is new look a barrier to safety? Pool Vs Pond law

A TAMWORTH grandfather has expressed concerns about the safety of the ponds in Tamworth’s Bicentennial Park. 

Noel Bayliss regularly takes his grandchildren to the park to play but says he has become increasingly worried about the safety of residents, and in particular, young children, and feels compelled to ask the question: “If pools have to have fences, why don’t ponds?”

The bulk of Mr Bayliss’s concerns have troubled him for some time but he says the implementation of new laws surrounding pools and fencing regulations have left him scratching his head.

The new laws were introduced earlier this year in response to a number of drowning deaths across the state. 

Mr Bayliss said he felt something should be done to make the ponds safer if so much energy was being invested in making pools in private residences safer. 

“To me they pose the same risks,” he said.

“There’s not much stopping someone from falling in and seriously injuring themselves, particularly at night time, and especially if the person was unfamiliar with the park.

“And small children, chasing a ball could easily fall in if they were concentrating.

“It will only take one small incident and there’s the potential for something tragic to happen.”

Mr Bayliss suggested ponds, like those in Bicentennial Park, posed a larger threat to people’s safety than backyard swimming pools. 

“If they have to be fenced to regulations, so should large, deep, ponds like that,” he said. 

“The risk is the same if someone were to walk through the park at night and didn’t know it was there. They could find themselves knee- deep in trouble in the dark.

“They should be fenced. It might not be pretty but it would make them safer.”

Tamworth Regional Council’s parks and horticulture manager Brian Sheedy said public safety was one of the key elements considered during the design process for when repairing and improving the two eastern ponds at Bicentennial Park, which date back to 1988. 

“This was part of the reasoning behind the decision to change the vertical drop at the edges of the ponds to a sloping batter, as was increasing the amount of rock edging around each pond,” Mr Sheedy said.

“The investigation of safety issues surrounding water bodies constructed in public areas in NSW and Queensland confirmed that batter grades of 1:5 are acceptable in regards to public safety.

“Of course, when it comes to children, there is no substitute for attentive parental or adult supervision – and while the ponds are designed to minimise risk to park users, there have also been four signs erected in the vicinity of the ponds as a reminder of the potential risk.”

Signs erected around the ponds since the upgrade read: “Warning: Use of this facility may be hazardous. Please take reasonable care of your safety and observe the prohibition, warning and information symbols.”

The symbols show swimming, fishing, littering and boating are prohibited at the ponds.

Mr Sheedy said in NSW, private or “backyard” swimming pool safety was legislated by the Swimming Pools Act 1992 and the Swimming Pools Regulation 2008.

“Local councils have responsibility for administering the Swimming Pools Act and Regulation,” he said.

“The act and regulation apply to all swimming pools (indoor and outdoor) on premises where there is a residential building, a moveable dwelling, like a caravan, a hotel or a motel.

“They do not apply to water bodies built in public areas, such as parks.”

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