The Education (Hostels) Regulations 2005: Guidelines

All hostels that fit the definition of ‘hostel’ in the Education and Training Act and the regulations, and their owners, must comply with the regulations.

The definition covers a wide range of boarding establishments – for example:

  • residential specialist schools
  • health camps
  • hostels operated by state and state integrated schools,
  • private hostels serving groups of international students attending registered schools.

It does not, however, cover private boarding where a homeowner provides accommodation to less than five students. Nor does it cover boarding when students attending a registered school are not the main group of people being accommodated.

These guidelines provide further explanation and should be read in association with the regulations. The headings correlate to the relevant parts and requirements of the regulations to make it easy to read the two together.

Part 4: Code of practice relating to management of hostels

  • Policies and operating procedures
    • In addition to the policies and procedures required by the regulations, a range of other policies and procedures are likely to be needed for effective operation of the hostel.

      These may relate to:

      • health and safety
      • use of alcohol and other substances
      • administration of medication and access to health care
      • personal hygiene
      • disciplinary procedures
      • searching of boarders or their belongings
      • administration, record keeping and privacy of personal information
      • catering
      • visitor access
      • boarder communications (including email and internet access)
      • site security
      • organised excursions
      • transport
      • staffing (including appointment, suitability checking and supervision)
      • reporting to parents.

      The requirement that policies and procedures be reviewed in consultation with the boarders and their parents every three years might be met by:

      • providing boarders and parents with information about the general nature of the hostel policies and procedures, and their ability to participate in the review
      • inviting them to indicate which policies and procedures are of particular interest to them and how they would like to be involved in the review (for example, being informed of intended changes, making written comments, or participating in meetings or discussion groups convened by the hostel)
      • ensuring that boarders and parents are enabled to participate in the review along the lines they have indicated.

      Evidence that a review has been undertaken must be provided with a licence renewal application and so any process undertaken must be documented.

  • Abuse, harassment, or serious neglect of boarders
    • You must have a policy on hostel relationships and protection of boarders from ill- treatment, and this must be provided to the Authority as part of your licence application. The policy must detail how you would meet the provisions of regulation 58, relating to abuse, harassment or serious neglect.

      If you suspect harassment or neglect you must make a judgement based on ‘a belief on reasonable grounds’. Consider the reliability of the source of the information, and any relevant physical, behavioural or circumstantial evidence available at the time.

      You will need to ensure that the provisions of the Employment Relations Act 2000 are met if a staff member is suspended from work, in order to meet the provisions of the regulations. If a boarder is not permitted to stay at the hostel because of their alleged involvement in incidents of abuse or harassment, your policies and procedures will need to protect the rights of the boarder while allegations are investigated.

      Any decisions taken, and the reasons for those decisions, need to be documented.


  • Records
    • In addition to the requirements of the regulations, hostels must also comply with the Privacy Act 2020. This Act requires personal information to be kept secured, only used for the purposes for which it was gathered, and only disclosed to authorised persons. Staff may need to be privy to a boarder’s private information to enable an appropriate level of care to be provided. However, care must be taken not to disclose this information to other boarders, or ancillary staff that may not have a right to it. This issue may be best dealt with under an employment agreement. Records may be kept electronically or in hard copy.

  • Supervision, staffing and security
    • The regulations require suitability checks, including Police vetting. Details of the vetting service are available from the New Zealand Police¹.

      Other ancillary, contract, temporary or voluntary staff or others visiting the hostel are required to be supervised. ‘Substantial supervision’ is not defined in the regulations so judgement will be needed to meet this requirement. The extent of supervision needed will depend on the purpose and the timing of the visit, the areas of the hostel to be accessed, the presence or absence of boarders, and the proximity to areas used by boarders.

      The regulations allow you to set your own staff ratios. A documented risk management approach should be used to determine these.

      It is desirable that staff have an appreciation of adolescent development and know how young people’s health is fostered if the intentions of the regulations are to be achieved. Adolescence is a critical developmental period and ideally people holding supervisory positions in hostels will have appropriate qualifications. The Ministry of Youth Development² and Ara Taiohi³ formally known as the New Zealand Association for Adolescent Health and Development (NZAAHD) may be able to provide guidance and assistance.

      ¹ New Zealand Police website(external link)
      ² The Ministry of Youth Development website(external link)
      ³ Ara Taiohi website(external link) 

  • Food and drink
    • You might consider using reference groups, involving parents and boarders, to consider issues relating to meal variety, quality and quantity. The preparation of a food safety plan is desirable.

      Information about nutritional requirements, food safety planning, and requirements for the quality of drinking water is available from the Public Health Services that are normally associated with a District Health Board.

  • Infectious and other diseases
    • The regulations set out certain requirements for persons suffering or suspected to be suffering from diseases listed in Schedule 2 of the Health (Infectious and Notifiable Diseases) Regulations 1966.¹

      A Medical Officer of Health may determine exclusion times from the hostel that are less than those provided for in health regulations. The Medical Officer of Health can also provide advice about infection control and on the exclusion of boarders or staff members suffering from other communicable diseases such as the flu. Medical Officers of Health may be contacted through the District Health Board.

      ¹Health Regulations(external link) 

  • Protection or promotion of health
    • The regulations require you, in a number of health-related situations, to take ‘all reasonably practicable steps’ to protect or promote health. This is not defined, but may include having sufficient staff trained in first aid, having arrangements with medical providers for after hours services, and ensuring that staff know how to contact emergency services.

      The range of health and other support services for your hostel will be dictated, to some extent, by its location. In a large metropolitan area, a full range of services should be readily available. In an isolated rural hostel, other special arrangements will need to be considered.

      Controlling the use of alcohol and other substances is a matter to address in your hostel policies – for example, setting out the circumstances (if any) when alcohol may be used. Also, a clause might be included in employment contracts prohibiting the use of alcohol or other substances by hostel staff when on duty and prohibiting staff members from being under the influence of alcohol or other substances when on duty.

  • Parents' contact with, or access to, boarders
    • You might suggest that parents limit contact with a boarder to certain times, and avoided during meal times or study time. However, access cannot be prohibited at any time unless the ‘good reasons’ provisions set out in the regulations apply (see regulation 68).