Starting a service

All about starting a new early learning service.

Level of compliance Main audience Other


  • All early learning services
  • Service owners and managers

Read this information if you are thinking about starting a new service.

Steps to starting a new service

Before starting a new service you should, in this order:

Research and preparation

Understand the geographic area you want to set up in and decide the type of service you want to establish

To understand the area you want to set up in and decide what type of service you want to establish, you can:

  • review the national and regional data
  • visit other services in your area to determine what types of services already exist in your community
  • carry out a community needs assessment to understand what kind of service would best suit the community’s needs
  • talk to staff at your local Ministry office for information about ECE services and the needs in your area:
    • they also have information about possible sources of funding assistance, particularly if you are community-based
  • develop a draft budget:
    • develop a draft budget for the annual operating cost of each option, referring to Ministry of Education Funding rates
    • details about the funding system can be found in the ECE Funding Handbook and on 20 Hours ECE
    • certified playgroups are funded at a different rate. Refer to the Playgroup Funding Handbook for more information
    • we strongly recommend that you seek professional financial advice early
  • engage with your community and discuss any estimated fees:

There are 4 main types of service. The following links provide detailed guidance about starting these specific types of services.

Starting a centre-based service

Starting a home-based service

Establishing a playgroup

Establishing a puna kōhungahunga

About community-based services

Models of ownership and operation

Some services are community-based. These may be ‘standalone’ or may come under the umbrella of a larger organisation.

Others are privately owned and operated.

Definition of a community-based service

Community-based early learning services belong to and are governed by their communities.

They have assets that are owned by and will return to those communities.

They cannot distribute financial gains to their members.

Types of community-based organisations include:

  • incorporated societies
  • charitable trusts
  • statutory trusts
  • community trusts.

Community-based also includes services owned by public bodies (eg government departments, councils or Crown entities).

Establishing a community group

It is strongly recommended that you ensure your group is formally established as a legal entity and is governed by a constitution.

Government expectations

A service must focus on providing:

  • an excellent quality of staff-child interaction
  • interesting learning resources and programmes that engage children
  • a supportive environment in which children can work together
  • engagement and effective communication with families, whānau and communities
  • positive home learning environments that reinforce learning.


All licensed services and certificated playgroups are regulated by the Ministry of Education.

Services must meet minimum standards of education and care in order to operate.

The Education (Early Childhood Services) Regulations 2008 are the regulations that must be met by services in order for them to hold a licence and to receive government funding.

Licensing criteria state the day-to-day requirements that different service types must meet in order to meet the regulated standards.

Playgroups are required to meet the Education (Playgroups) Regulations 2008 in order to be certificated and receive government funding. The certification criteria state the requirements playgroups must meet in order to meet the playgroup standards.


The 2008 regulatory system prescribes a national curriculum framework for early childhood education – for licensed early childhood education services and certificated playgroups.

The curriculum framework consists of the principals and strands of Te Whāriki in both English and Māori.

Te Whāriki

The Education (Early Childhood Services) Regulations 2008, the Education (Playgroups) Regulations 2008 curriculum strands and related licensing and certification criteria are linked to the curriculum framework and state more requirements needed to support quality curricula for children.

To supplement this, you can visit the following page: 

Kei tua o te pae | Assessment for learning: Early childhood exemplars

Helpful information

From other agencies and government departments

The Social Development Partners

  • An association of community and voluntary welfare groups. 
  • They have collaborated legal resources onto their website Law Reform Pipeline.

The Social Development Partners(external link)

CommunityNet Aotearoa

  • Provides information about the community sector.
  • The website provides case studies, hot topics and ‘how to’ guides.
  • The ‘links’ section includes a list of organisations that provide grants and other funding for community groups. 

CommunityNet Aotearoa(external link)

The Charities Commission

  • Responsible for registering and monitoring charitable organisations in New Zealand. 
  • Their website includes a guide to the Charities Act 2005 and the register of charities.

The Charities Commission(external link)

The Companies Office

  • Their website allows you to form and maintain companies, search the register of companies and file annual returns. 
  • It also includes information about incorporated societies and trusts. 

The Companies Office(external link)

The Department of Internal Affairs

It administers:

  • lottery grants,
  • community grant schemes,
  • grants online,
  • trusts.

 The Department of Internal Affairs(external link)

Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment

It provides information and support when starting a business.

Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment(external link)

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