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. 


PF16 Kitchen facilities

  • Criteria
    • Criteria

      Premises and facilities criterion 16

      § Ø There are facilities for the hygienic preparation, storage and/or serving of food and drink that contain:

      • a means of keeping perishable food at a temperature at or below 4°C and protected from vermin and insects;
      • a means of cooking and/or heating food;
      • a means of hygienically washing dishes;
      • a sink connected to a hot water supply;
      • storage; and
      • food preparation surfaces that are impervious to moisture and can be easily maintained in a hygienic condition.

      To ensure that there are facilities to support the hygienic preparation and storage of 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.

      Services where cooked meals for children are prepared are likely to need more fully equipped kitchen facilities than services where children provide their own food. However, all services must meet the requirements set out in this criterion.

      1. Storing perishables – a fridge is the most practical way of storing perishable food and drink at a safe temperature and for keeping it protected from vermin and insects. The fridge should be large enough to store perishable food (including food brought by children) and any medication that requires refrigeration.

      2. Cooking and/or heating food – the type of equipment or appliances needed for cooking and/or heating food will depend upon the number of children you are cooking for and the type of meals being prepared. Options include microwaves, stove tops, and ovens.

      3. Washing dishes – there are 2 types of dishwasher available: domestic and commercial. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages, and services need to consider which is right for them.

      Domestic dishwashers:

      • are relatively cheap (compared to commercial)
      • can also be used to hygienically clean toys and playdough equipment
      • generally take longer to run through a cycle of dishes
      • are designed for use by the ‘average family’, rather than a busy centre, so may not be able to cope with the extra demands placed on them long term.

      Commercial dishwashers:

      • are very fast
      • can handle a high volume of dishes
      • are more expensive to purchase
      • may not be able to be used to clean toys and other equipment, because the water temperature is generally too hot.

      Contact your local Public Health Unit(external link) for further advice about dishwashers for ECE centres.

      If your service does not have a dishwasher and you wash dishes by hand, the Ministry of Health recommends you:

      • thoroughly wash the dishes in hot water that is at least 43°C
      • use adequate soap or detergent
      • rinse and disinfect the dishes in hot water by placing them in clean boiling water for 30 seconds, or in clean hot water that is at least 77°C for 2 minutes (make sure children are kept out of the area until the water has drained away)
      • keep the dishes separate from each other while they are rinsed
      • remove them immediately and let the air dry them – never use a tea towel or cloth to dry or polish the dishes after they have been cleaned.

      The time and space involved in hygienically washing dishes by this method means centres using large quantities of dishes should consider installing a dishwasher instead (especially if they do not have designated kitchen staff).

      4. Sink with hot water connection – Having a sink with a hot water supply enables hand-washing of items hygienically and to obtain hot water for other purposes, such as cleaning food preparation surfaces.

      5. Storage – Open shelves should only be used to store sealed packets or food in containers. Cupboards or storage units used for storing food need to be fit for purpose and designed to reduce the chances of food becoming contaminated by vermin and insects.

      6. Food preparation surfaces –Surfaces need to be constructed from or sealed with moisture-impervious materials, and designed in a way that minimises a build-up of dirt, food particles and bacteria, e.g. in corners and joins. Check surfaces regularly for signs of wear and tear, chips, scratches, loose tiles, cracked grout, or worn sealant. Any of these can allow moisture to penetrate the surface and make the surface difficult to keep hygienic.-

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