Swimming Pools and Spas

To determine what permits or approvals are required for swimming pools and spas, it is necessary to refer to the following document available on the CBOS (Consumer, Building and Occupational Services) website. The Directors Determination – Categories of Building and Demolition Works. (See ling below).



The relevant extracts are provided below as a guide.

The critical point from these is that a pool fence (barrier) does need approval from a building surveyor – there are no owner builder options for pool fences without a permit in place.


What can an owner do without a permit?

The following can be carried out by an owner without any permits or approvals.

In considering the options below, an  owner must ensure all the limitations are met prior to commencing.

Category 1 – Low Risk Building Work by an owner, or competent person, or licensed builder




What can a licence builder do without a permit (notifiable works)?

In considering the options below, a licenced builder must ensure all the limitations are met prior to commencing, and must notify Council on completion with the submission of a FORM 80.

Category 2 – Low Risk Building Work performed by a Licensed Builder (or a competent person only where specified)



If your pool fall outside of the above two options, you will need to engage a Building surveyor.

The following can only be carried out once a Building Surveyor has issued a Certificate of Likely compliance

The builder is responsible for ensuring that any proposed work conforms with the scope of this Determination, in particular that permitted size limits are not exceeded and that boundary setbacks are complied with

Category 3 - Building Work Notifiable by a Building Surveyor to the Permit Authority



The Building Code of Australia (BCA) defines a swimming pool as an excavation or structure that:

-         is capable of being filled with water to a depth of 300 millimetres or more

-         is capable of being used for swimming, bathing, wading, paddling or other human aquatic activities

-         is used, designed, manufactured or adapted for the purpose mentioned above, despite its current use

-         includes spas and inflatable swimming pools

It does not include a:

  • fish pond
  • ornamental pond, manufactured to be used for ornamental purposes
  • dam used for aquaculture, marine research or storage of water
  • watercourse
  • spa bath situated in a bathroom which is not continually filled with water
  • birthing pool used solely for water births
  • portable wading pool

A portable wading pool is defined as:

  • capable of being filled with water to a depth of less than 300 millimetres; and
  • has a volume of no more than 2,000 litres; and
  • has no filtration or pumping system

Swimming Pool Safety (fencing and access)

All pools and spas must comply with Australian Standard 1926.1 & 2. This standard sets out design rules for fences, pool gates and child resistant doors and windows. 

These requirements are also set out in the Building Code of Australia Volume 2, part 3.9.3 'Swimming Pool Access'. 

Swimming Pool Drainage

Water in swimming pools becomes contaminated by use and by adding chlorine and salt. Cleansing pool filters by backwashing also produces contaminated waste. Therefore, provision for drainage directly to the sewer is required. Drainage to the ground or to the stormwater system is not allowed.

Note: ornamental pools and fish ponds are not subject to the above requirements, but owners still have the same duty of care. 

Above-ground swimming pools and spas are required to have permanent safety barriers in the same manner as in-ground pools and spas, however, the walls of an above-ground swimming pool or spa may provide a barrier if they are at least 1.2m in height and so not have a surface which enables a child to gain a foothold and climb into the swimming pool or spa. Any objects that could be climbable by a young child, such as a pool ladder, pool filter, pump equipment or plumbing connection into the side of the pool, should be properly fenced or otherwise isolated.

Fencing regulations

  • Fences must be a minimum of 1.2m high
  • The gap under the fence to be a maximum of 100mm from the ground
  • The vertical bars should be closer than 100mm apart
  • Once a fence and self-closing gate are installed, they must be kept in good working order

Fencing Materials

You don’t have to construct your traditional pool fence. You can use the following combinations:

-        Colourbond

-        Paling

-        Shade Mesh (as long as there is a top and bottom rail. No horizontal middle rail) 

All fencing details should be provided to your Building Surveyor along with your site plan for an assessment. You will still be required to following the safety access guidelines which are featured in this document ‘inset PDF here’.

The placing of a cover or lid over the swimming pool or spa DOES NOT comply and is not acceptable. A safety barrier is required.

The top five issues affecting pool barriers released by the AIBS include:

1.   Gates and doors that are no longer self-closing
If the gate is no longer self-closing the gate will not comply with Australian Standards.

2.   Gates and doors that are no longer self-latching
General wear and tear of the locking mechanism means that many gates and doors will no longer self-latch when they close, If the gate or door is not properly locked, children may be able to gain unsupervised access to the water area.

3.   Gates that are propped open
Sometimes, especially during summer and pool pool parties, the pool gate is propped open (e.g. with a chair or esky) to allow adults easy access to the pool area while they are carrying food or drink.

4.   Ground movement
Ground movement may cause parts of the barrier, including the gate, to shift which may cause gaps to appear in and under the barrier.

5.   Climbable objects on the neighbours side of a boundary fence
Objects on the neighbours side of the fence may enable a child to climb over and gain access to the water area

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