A bed and breakfast owner has slammed inconsistent nanny state rules after being told to build an $80,000 fence around his unique swimming pool.
Andrew MacDonald criticised the move by Blue Mountains City Council, which manages a park featuring a children’s play area just metres away from an unguarded lakeside where a teenager drowned.
The 66-year-old, who owns The Studios holiday accommodation in New South Wales, was ordered by the authority and the courts to build the barrier around his pool.
The unique swimming pool nestled between sandstone rocks would need an $80,000 fence
The council gave him a direction in 2016 following a safety inspection with the courts handing down a ruling last week that he must comply in 120 days.
But Mr MacDonald says the move could breed complacency among parents, who he says remain primarily responsible for the safety of their children irrespective of whether there is a fence.
Speaking to Daily Mail Australia, he said: ‘I’ve got a 20-acre property. It has a pond in the middle of the garden which is five or six times bigger than the pool and they are happy with that.
‘There’s a 100ft deep gully and natural rock ledges.
‘If you remove the responsibility for adult supervision you place small children at more risk.
Unfenced Wentworth Falls Lake is run by same council which issued Mr MacDonald with order
‘Complacency is the worst thing in this type of environment. The primary responsibility with any small child should remain with the parents.
‘I always insist the child shouldn’t go out in the gardens unless they are accompanied by a parent. Putting a pool fence around would not remove that.
‘What the court is saying is by putting a fence around the pool and I don’t have to worry about anything else and I can remove the locks – on doors and windows.
‘If you say that you don’t have to worry about them, you’re placing them at higher risk.
‘We’ve gone 53 year without a problem. I raised my three children on the property.’
Holiday accommodation owner Andrew MacDonald has 120 days to comply with council order
A court ruling handed down by the New South Wales Land and Environment Court in Sydney last week told Mr MacDonald the council direction was legal.
He has been given the 120-day deadline to build the fence or to seek an exemption or amendment from Blue Mountains City Council – the very council which handed him the direction in the first place.
But 25km away at Wentworth Falls Lake, which is under the same council’s control, a children’s playground sits just metres away from an unfenced lake.
It was also the spot where 16-year-old high school student Michael Ryall drowned while fishing at the lake in 2014.
Mr MacDonald said: ‘ The Wentworth Falls Lake is under direct control of the Blue Mountains City Council and they’ve built a children’s play area right next to the water.
Michael Ryall, 16, drowned while fishing at Wentworth Falls Lake in New South Wales in 2014
Mr MacDonald claims a fence could lead to complacency and cause evne more risk to children
‘I don’t know how deep it is. A teenager drowned in there two or three years ago.
‘It’s a very popular tourist attraction and people having barbeques, children running around and on any normal weekend there’s hundreds of people and not even a sign about supervising children or not swimming.
‘A lot of it doesn’t make any sense. The [pool] regulations seem to be more for the bureaucratic convenience.
‘The commissioner has ruled the direction was legal.
‘I can appeal but it’s $2,000 just to appeal and then I’ve got to fight the case. They’ve given me 120 days to get an exemption.
‘But the people I’m applying to [the council] are the people who issued the direction.
‘I’m caught between a rock and a hard place.’
Pool fencing experts say the work could cost up to $80,000 but would be almost impossible
Court documents suggest the council believes there is room for discussion about what would be suitable.
Rosemary Martin, the senior commissioner for the court, said in her judgment she was ‘heartened’ by suggestions from the council ‘that Mr MacDonald may still pursue options with respect to exemptions’.
But she also warned: ‘Mr MacDonald has available to him the option of applying for an exemption from barrier requirements that are impracticable or unreasonable in certain cases.
‘Needless to say, any such application for exemption would need to be considered on its merits, without the council having formed a pre-determined view as to the outcome of such application.’
The pool was built in the 1960s and is situated between sandstone rocks in the Blue Mountains
Mr MacDonald, who bought the property in 1987, said because the pool was built in the 1960s and before the Swimming Pool Act in 1992, the pool itself was not applicable to the rules as it currently exists.
Regulations were updated again in 2008 passing new rules relating to pool safety.
Experts say the fence around the unique pool at Andrew MacDonald’s country retreat in the Blue Mountains would be almost impossible to construct without ‘astronomical’ costs – 40 times more than a typical pool fence.
Pool fencing expert Adam Cool, told the court a typical fence would cost around $2,000 to $3,000.