Licensing criteria for centre-based ECE services

Section 10 of the Education and Training Act 2020(external link) defines an early childhood education and care centre as a premises that is used regularly for the education or care of 3 or more children (not being children of the persons providing the education or care or children enrolled at a school who are being provided with education or care before or after school) under the age of 6 years by day (or part of a day) but not for any continuous period of more than 7 days.

Centre-based ECE services have a variety of different operating structures, philosophies and affiliations, and are known by many different names – for example, Playcentres, early learning centres, Montessori, childcare centres, Kindergartens, crèches, preschools, a’oga amata, Rudolf Steiner etc.

These centres are licensed in accordance with the Education and Training Act 2020 under the Education (Early Childhood Services) Regulations 2008(external link), which prescribe minimum standards that each licensed service must meet. Licensing criteria are used to assess how the centres meet the minimum standards required by the regulations.

For each criterion there is guidance to help centres meet the required standards.

The publication of the criteria on its own can be downloaded as a PDF [PDF, 1.8 MB] and printed. 

The licensing criteria were last updated in September 2022. 


HS20 Food hygiene

  • Criteria
    • Criteria

      Health and safety practices criterion 20

      § Food is prepared, served, and stored hygienically.


      The criterion aims to uphold the health and safety of children by ensuring hygienic practices occur in regard to food.

  • Guidance
    • Guidance

      Any examples in the guidance are provided as a starting point to show how services can meet (or exceed) the requirement. Services may choose to use other approaches better suited to their needs as long as they comply with the criteria.

      Basic food hygiene is important to avoid outbreaks of food-borne illness in ECE centres.

      A centre should provide enough fridge space to store chilled foods – including milk and yoghurt provided by parents for infants and children.

      Under the Food Act 2014 and Food Regulations 2015, if you provide food as part of your ECE service it must be safe and suitable. Depending on what kind of food you provide, you may need to register and operate under a National Programme Level 2(external link). Use the Ministry for Primary Industries’ Where do I fit tool(external link) to find out if you need to register.

      More information on the requirements of the Food Act and Food Regulations is available on the Food Act section of this website

      Where children are involved in food preparation on a regular basis for consumption by others, food hygiene practices must be maintained and children supervised and provided with guidance around not eating the food and discarding dropped items. There should be utensils provided for children and appropriate surfaces should be used.

  • Things to consider
    • Things to consider

      Under the Food Act 2014 there are no specific food safety training requirements for early childhood education staff.

      The tips for food safety on the MPI website(external link) is useful for anyone handling food.

      If you are operating a centre under National Programme 2, staff must have a good level of food safety knowledge relevant to the food provided at the centre and the ability to put it into practice.

      For information on formal training courses, go to the New Zealand Qualifications Authority website(external link).