Swimming Pools

Drowning is a leading cause of accidental death in young children who lack the cognitive and water skills to deal with the danger. There are over 300,000 backyard swimming pools in NSW and they are commonplace in many backyards within the Cowra Shire. Swimming pool safety is a vital issue that affects the whole community. This section of the website provides answers to commonly asked questions about swimming pools.

Frequently Asked Questions

I want to install a new swimming pool. Do I need Council approval?

Exempt Development

 Certain pools are permitted without approval

State planning laws permit small backyard swimming pools without the need for Council approval, but only if the swimming pool meets all the following requirements

  • It will not be installed on a property that is heritage listed.
  • It will be used for domestic purposes only.
  • It will be located in the rear yard of the property.
  • It will be located at least 1 metre from each lot boundary.
  • It will not exceed 2,000 litres in capacity.
  • It will not require structural work for installation.
  • It will not impact on the structural stability of any building.
  • A child resistant barrier will be constructed or installed in accordance with the requirements of the Swimming Pools Act 1992.
  • It will not cause any building to contravene the Building Code of Australia.
  • It will be installed in accordance with manufacturers specifications, if applicable.

Complying Development

If the proposed swimming pool does not meet the requirements for pools that can be installed without approval, then it may be possible to install the pool by gaining a Complying Development Certificate with Council or an accredited private certifier. To satisfy the requirements for Complying Development, the swimming pool:

  • Must be located behind the setback area from a primary road, or in the rear yard.
  • Must be setback at least 1m from a side or rear road.
  • Must not include decking that is more than 600mm above existing ground level.
  • Must not include coping that is more than 1.4m above existing ground level, or 300mm wide if the coping is more than 600mm above existing ground level.
  • Is the subject of an approval under the Local Government Act 1993 where water discharged from the pool is not connected to a sewer main.
  • Must contain all pumps in a sound proof enclosure.
  • Be surrounded by a child resistant barrier that is constructed or installed in accordance with the requirements of the Swimming Pools Act 1992.

Note - The application for a Complying Development Certificate must be accompanied by a BASIX Certificate if the capacity of the swimming pool exceeds 40,000 litres.

Development Application & Construction Certificate

If the proposed swimming pool does not meet the requirements for Complying Development, then a Development Application (DA) and Construction Certificate (CC) Application must be lodged with Council. See the development section of this website for further information on the requirements for lodging DA's and CC's.

Note - The Development Application must be accompanied by a BASIX Certificate if the capacity of the swimming pool exceeds 40,000 litres.

What are the current laws for swimming pools in NSW?

The Swimming Pools Act 2012

 In 2012, a comprehensive review of the Swimming Pools Act 1992 was finalised. This review identified a number of amendments designed to enhance the safety of children under the age of five years around private ('backyard') swimming pools in NSW. The new legislation requires:

  • NSW Swimming Pools Register to be available for use by 29 April 2013.
  • All NSW swimming pools to be a registered by owners by 29 October 2013.
  • Pool owners will require a compliance certificate before sale or lease of their property from 29 April 2014.

Learn more from the NSW Swimming Pools and Spas Register.

How has the law changed since I installed my swimming pool?

The Swimming Pool Act 1992 first commenced on 1 August 1992. The following general summary provides an indication of the various fencing provisions that apply depending upon the installation date of the swimming pool.

Installation prior to 1 August 1990

Swimming pools must be either surrounded by a pool fence that separates the pool from any residential building on the premises, or alternatively, access to the pool area must be restricted at all times by fencing, or 'child resistant' barriers must be provided to all doors and windows which provide access to the pool area.

Installation after 1 August 1990

Swimming pools must be surrounded by a pool fence that is separated from any residential building on the premises or from any place (whether private or public) adjoining the premises.

Installation after 1 July 2010

The Swimming Pools Act 1992 permitted various automatic exemptions for swimming pools installed on small lots (< 230m2), large lots (> 2 hectares) and in locations where the pool adjoined a large water body. The Swimming Pools Amendment Act 2009 has since removed these automatic exemptions. The amendments provide for a delayed commencement with pools for which construction or installation has commenced before 1 July 2010 retaining the automatic exemption. All new private pools constructed in NSW after 1 July 2010 must be enclosed by a complying four-sided, child resistant barrier.

Do I have to fence my swimming pool?

The Swimming Pools Act defines a swimming pool as meaning an excavation, structure or vessel:

  • that is capable of being filled with water to a depth of 300 millimetres or more; and
  • that is solely or principally used, or that is designed, manufactured or adapted to be solely or principally used, for the purpose of swimming, wading, paddling or any other human aquatic activity, and includes a spa pool, but does not include a spa bath, anything that is situated within a bathroom or anything declared by the regulations not to be a swimming pool for the purposes of this Act.

If you have or wish to install a swimming pool then you must ensure that it is at all times surrounded by a complying child-resistant barrier that separates the swimming pool from any residential building situated on the premises and from any place (whether public or private) adjoining the premises. The barrier must be designed, constructed, installed and maintained in accordance with the specified standards.

The laws provide Council with the powers to issue directions to comply with the swimming pool legislation and to issue penalty notices and commence legal action where landowners and occupiers fail to comply with the requirements and relevant directions.

Selling or Leasing your property with a pool.

All properties with a pool that are sold or leased must have a current compliance certificate (The certificate confirms that the pool and fencing measure up to required standards).

Certificates are issued by Cowra Shire Council following an inspection.

While property owners are responsible to make sure child-resistant fences are maintained, anyone who rents or occupies a property with a pool is also responsible to make sure a pool fence is installed and maintained.

To arrange an inspection, residents can download the form here, drop it in or email to council and arrange payment. The state government has set a fee of $150 for the inspection. Additional inspection fees are charged, per inspection, if the pool is not complying in the first instance and requires subsequent inspections.

Once the application form is lodged, along with any relevant documentation, and the fee paid at Council, a council staff member will contact the applicant, generally within a couple of days, to arrange an inspection.

Home-owners are advised to work their way through the online check-list and get any necessary work done on their pool before they arrange an inspection. This could avoid the need for a potential follow-up inspection if problems are found. 


This Frequently Asked Questions’ fact-sheet has more information about inspections.