Plant it safe

Australian Institute of Landscape Designers & Managers

By Claudia Crawley
Wednesday, 07 September, 2016

Plant it safe

Safety around pools has been a big focus since pool safety standards were first introduced in Australia.

Everyone is aware of the importance of appropriate fencing and gates to prevent drowning accidents, but less thought and knowledge is given to pool-safe planting, especially in the non-climbable zone (NCZ).

There is still a little confusion when it comes to the regulations regarding climbable and non-climbable plants within the NCZ.

Pool with cactus.

The NCZ is a pool safety standard that requires a 900 mm non-climbable zone around the entire pool barrier. The NCZ extends both upwards and downwards in an arc from the barrier.

The NCZ is to be located on the outside for pool fences that are less than 1800 mm high. However, for pool fences 1800 mm or more in height, the non-climbable zone can be located either on the outside or on the inside of the fence.

Diagram illustrating the NCZ requirements.

Diagram illustrating the non-climbable zone.

When is a plant considered climbable in the NCZ?

Plants with a substantially horizontal surface of 10 mm or more that allow a young child to gain a foothold or handhold and can hold a weight of 25 kg are considered climbable. This includes trees, shrubs, pot plants, lattice and trellis. Most certifiers and council also consider hedging with softer branches as climbable.

Examples: Hedging plants including Murraya spp., lillypilly, Viburnum spp., conifers and camellias.


When is a plant considered non-climbable in the NCZ?

Bushes with dense, spiked, thorned, rough or otherwise irritating or hindering foliage are considered non-climbable and are therefore acceptable for planting in the NCZ. Shrubs that are fragile or crush easily or are so weak that a child could not climb them are also acceptable. Objects such as smooth tree trunks or other non-climbable vegetation are permitted in the NCZ, as they are either not climbable by young children or they create an additional barrier for young children. Palm fronds that bend easily so that they will not support a child’s weight are also acceptable.

Examples: Bamboo (not accepted by all councils), succulents and cacti, bromeliads, herbaceous plants and perennial plants.

Check with your local council for more information and regulations specific to your area.

Claudia Crawley.

Claudia Crawley is Director and Landscape Designer of Grindstone Landscapes and Landscape Designer at Peter Fudge Gardens and an AILDM Board member.

Images courtesy of Secret Gardens of Sydney.

AILDM logo.

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