CHILD safety advocates are optimistic a review of the Northern Territory’s pool fencing laws will see an end to exemptions on fences in the rural area.
The review is in its final stages and will be received by Cabinet shortly.
It was announced last January by former planning minister Dave Tollner following the drowning death of Justin Morgan-Parke, but put on ice after Labor took government last August.
Three-year-old Justin was found lifeless at the bottom of a spa on a 2ha rural block 40km out of Darwin on January 9, 2016. Lying on the spa floor next to him was a toy truck he had received as a present that day, leading Deputy Coroner Kelvin Currie to speculate that the little boy had gone into the water after accidentally dropping the toy.
The NT passed mandatory pool fencing legislation in 2003 under Labor following a spate of drownings, but the laws exempted pools built before March 2003 and those on properties larger than 1.8ha.
Moves to close the loophole on rural properties have been met with resistance from some pool owners. Late last year, Litchfield Council moved to support a change to the laws, but baulked at the last minute under community pressure.
Kidsafe NT chief executive Kellie Shewring said she was optimistic the review would advocate for change.
“There’s no substitute for supervision, but obviously kids are quick. Any body of water that a child has access to needs to have appropriate pool fencing,” she said.
“I know it’s probably not a popular change with some people, but it’s one of those things that has to happen.
“We’re the only state or territory that doesn’t (require all pools to be fenced).”
Ms Shewring said implementation of new legislation would take time.
“It’s a process and change is hard, but you can’t put a price on a child’s life or on anyone’s life.”
The NT has the highest drowning rate in Australia. Fifteen people drowned in the NT in 2015/16. Four of those deaths were in swimming pools.
The NT Government is due to release its new water safety strategy shortly.