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Victorian councils accused of blind spot on pool safety

Victorian councils have a major blind spot when it comes to pool safety as more than half of private owners have not certified their pools, a report suggests.

The finding has prompted concern from the state's auditor-general, as safety barriers are a key measure to prevent children drowning.

Between January 2000 and May 2019, 27 children drowned in private pools or spas across the state and barriers did not meet safety standards in 20 of those cases.

There are more than 200,700 pools across Victoria and owners have not registered 13 per cent of them, the audit found.

Across five specific councils, authorities were unaware if all pool barriers met safety standards because 55 per cent of owners had not certified their pools by a due date.

More widely, owners certified 56 per cent of safety barriers that were due to be ticked off by June last year.

"These issues mean that councils do not know if all pools in their municipalities have barriers that effectively reduce the chances of young children drowning," the Victorian Auditor-General's Office said.

"Councils can do more to make sure owners meet their obligations to register and certify their pools."

Councils should internally report on outstanding registrations and certifications and address them, the auditor-general office's recommended.

They should also address the limitations of their registration systems and develop procedures that outlined how they would apply the regulations and monitor owners' compliance, it said.

The auditor-general examined the Frankston, Greater Bendigo, Melton, Mornington Peninsula and Surf Coast councils and surveyed all 79 local councils in the state.

The five councils accepted or partially accepted the office's recommendations, but all Victorian councils should implement them, the auditor-general said.

The Andrews government in 2019 introduced mandatory safety regulations for private pools and spas, with owners required to have their safety barriers certified every four years.

Private pools and spas are also required to be registered with local councils under the rules, and owners have 60 days to bring safety barriers up to code if they are found to be non-compliant during certification.