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. 


HS21 Drinking water

  • Criteria
    • Criteria

      Health and safety practices criterion 21

      § An ample supply of water that is fit to drink is available to children at all times, and older children are able to access this water independently.


      The criterion aims to uphold the health and safety of children by ensuring they have access to a clean drinking water supply. Requirement for independent access is based on evidence that self-access to water enables children to maintain an adequate level of hydration.

  • 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.

      There are different ways to provide drinking water to ensure children maintain an adequate hydration level. These include:

      • providing drinking fountains outdoors, or water coolers inside (these need to be secured to meet the standards of HS6 – Securing Furniture)
      • using individually marked water bottles – these will need to be kept topped up and cleaned daily
      • making water jugs and individual cups available for children to pour their own water. These need to be cleaned daily.

      The provision of water should be included on the daily checks carried out be staff/adults at the centre.

      The Ministry of Health have a number of publications on drinking water(external link).

  • Things to consider
    • Things to consider

      Centres in rural or isolated areas that are not on a town water supply and use bores or water tanks must meet the Drinking Water Standards for New Zealand(external link).

      These services should contact a Health Protection Officer at their local public health unit or an Environmental Health Officer at their local council for advice.