The NSW Government has extended the deadline for swimming pool owners to compulsorily register their backyard pools and spas, in light of technical problems with the register’s website.
The registration deadline was midnight October 29 but technical difficulties prevented many residents from completing registration online in the past 48 hours.
After complaints from readers, Minister for Local Government Don Page granted a three-week grace period to people who have not been able to register their pools by the deadline and asked councils not to impose fines until after November 19.
Several readers contacted Fairfax Media on Tuesday to report having tried for days to comply with the requirement to no avail. The register website was either failing to load, taking more than 10 minutes to load or preventing people from navigating the many pages required to complete registration.
“To date I have tried 20 times each time getting through to different levels but never being able to complete the process yet being sent several emails that our pool has been registered – even though the link we were directed to could not verify any details of the registration,” said one resident who wished to remain anonymous. He has since been sent an email but has been unable to complete the process.
“This whole process is a joke; the government issues warnings about non-registration through news channels yet is unable to provide a functioning website or phone helpline,” he said.
Another NSW resident, Shaun Kerr, who works in information technology, has also been unable to comply.
“The stats should have shown that there was likely to be a last minute rush,” a frustrated Kerr said.
“I’ve been trying all morning, and it looks like the website has just started responding … It would go all the way through the process and then stop.”
Callers have also been unable to get through to the phone helpline which is often busy or failing to answer.
The compulsory state-wide register was announced in September last year. Mr Page said the site was experiencing difficulties as the midnight deadline approached, but was still processing about 2500 registrations an hour.
Mr Page asked people to be patient and keep trying.
“This exercise was never about fines but always about safety, so I’m sure people will agree that issuing penalty notices would not be appropriate under the current circumstances,” Mr Page said.
“I am sympathetic to people who have been frustrated by recent delays on the site and I urge them to continue to try to register their pools.”
But Sophie Cotsis, shadow minister for Local Government and Member of the Legislative Council who earlier on Tuesday called for an extention, said the grace period should be longer.
“I’d like to see the government further extend registration period till the end of the year, to call on councils to advise residents through their December rate notice as well as a properly resourced swim safety awareness campaign.
“Those people shouldn’t be fined if the website is not working. They are trying to do the right thing. The government should make sure their IT is functioning,” Ms Cotsis said.
She said a better advertising and public service announcement campaign should have been done by the NSW Government.
“We supported this legislation. They introduced it a year ago but in my view it needed more time. There area still many people unaware of the changes.”
The register is part of laws aimed at increasing pool safety compliance and reduce backyard drownings. They include mandatory inspections of the pool and fence before sale or rental of the property, and a self-assessment check that it meets Australian standards. Temporary blown up pools with a depth of 30 centimetres or more are also included.
Registration opened in April. Owners can also apply to register their pools with their local council for a fee.