Google Earth latest government tool

WARREN Shire Council has revealed a plan to use Google Earth to find out if residents are harbouring illegally set up backyard swimming pools.

The satellite search engine will become the latest tool used by the council in a bid to keep compliance tabs on more than 35 homes in the shire with registered swimming pools.

The move comes amid a major shakeup of the NSW Swimming Pools Act, which will require pool owners to formally lodge their details with a state register by October 29.

Health and development services manager Maryanne Stephens said by using Google Earth, rangers could better target new pools not yet registered, and existing owners whose safety measures were not up to scratch with current compliance standards.

By simply searching an address, staff can accurately pinpoint whether a fence has been erected around a pool.

While Google Earth has enabled people to beam themselves down into virtually any part of the world since June 2005, it is only recently that organisations, such as local councils, have taken to using it as an alternative operational tool.

In the case of Warren Shire, it will spare the council an untold number of hours spent door knocking by helping refine their search.

"It gives us the capability to simply put in an address and find out whether there's cause for us to investigate," Ms Stephens said.

"For a small shire we already have a pretty large number of homes with backyard pools already registered, but we know that there's more, and they're the ones we will be targeting over the coming months."

Changes to the Swimming Pools Amendment Act last October gives councils power to slap non-compliant pool owners with on-the-spot fines as part of a range of more stringent reforms aimed at bringing the national drowning mortality rate down 50 per cent by 2015.

Nationally, 21 children under the age of four died from drowning in backyard pools between July 2011 and June 2012.

Over the next four months council plans to doorknock all of its existing pool owners and launch a local advertising blitz as part of a major compliance education initiative keeping people abreast of the changes before the October cut off.

While the reforms are yet to impact rural residents with dams they could see people with blow up pools fined for not having adequate safety measures in place.

"People generally don't think about fencing when they buy a blow up pool, but if you own one you need to have it secured," Ms Stephens said.

You can find out more by phoning the council on 6847 6600 or visiting the Local Government website at dlg.nsw.gov.au.

reid.jermyn@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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