Network Management for Licensed Early Childhood Services

Read this information if you are thinking about starting a licensed early childhood service.

7 must know criteria and how to apply

Our learnings from having assisted with 40+ applications since 01 February 2023

From 1 February 2023, the control of where a new ECE service can establish lies with the Minister of Education.

To apply for network approval, applicants must satisfy a number of criteria (see Network Approval assessment criteria below). The application is submitted to the Ministry of Education, where the Secretary for Education will assess the applicant and individuals involved in the governance of the proposed service for their "fit and proper" status and the financial viability of the proposed service. These assessments will be provided to the Minister of Education.

The Minister will consider the assessments of the Secretary, as well as alignment with the National Statement, community need and existing service availability, and licensing history. The Minister will then make a decision on whether to approve the application. If approved, the holder must apply for a license before beginning operation.

The seven criteria Network Approvals will be assessed against:

1. Financial position of the applicant

As an applicant, it is necessary to describe your financial position and the financial viability of your proposed service.

The Minister will take into consideration your overall financial position, including the assessment of the proposed service's financial viability made by the Secretary. This evaluation is conducted to determine the probability that you will be able to establish and provide the proposed service within the time frame you have described.

To allow the Secretary to assess the financial viability of your proposed service, you must provide the necessary information. Additionally, you may choose to provide additional information about your financial position, such as audited accounts, bank statements, and other financial details.

The Secretary will assess the financial viability of the proposed service, which will aid the Minister in deciding whether you are in a financially sound position to establish and provide the proposed service.

To establish and operate your proposed service, you must provide estimates of the costs of setting up the service, including applying for a license, as well as evidence of access to sufficient resources or a credible plan to obtain them. This may include information on the costs of goods and labor for construction or refurbishment, relevant fees, and any other set-up costs, such as initial recruitment, staff training, and fit-out expenses.

You should also consider providing evidence to support these estimates, such as quotes and information on overhead costs.

Additionally, you must provide information and evidence of access to sufficient funds to establish and operate the proposed service, or a plan to obtain access to sufficient resources. This could include bank statements, audited financial statements related to the operation of the proposed service, a formal business plan outlining your access to funds, and plans for fundraising or loan applications.


Provide a table of estimated costs for establishing the ECE service, including:

  • Total estimated build cost – including labour and materials;
  • Total consenting costs for Resource Consent, Building Consent and other related consents.
  • Make sure you include consultant and council costs here; Details of other set up costs – including indoor and outdoor fit out, website design, recruitment costs, licensing costs.
  • Provide details of contingencies built in – to show you won’t run out of capital.

For the above details, make sure you have supporting documents that you can provide if requested. This would include quotes etc.

Provide details and evidence of access to sufficient capital to be able to cover the costs of setting up (as above) and operate the ECE service. This evidence will likely include

  • Bank statements
  • Audited financial statements that relate to the applicant’s operation of the proposed service
  • A formal business plan outlining how the applicant will access funds plans for fundraising – if applicable
  • Plans to apply for loans
  • Applications for grants or other funding if applicable

We recommend getting your accountant to help you with the financial statements and plans to apply for loans.

Who should you talk to at this step:

  • Accountant;
  • Bank;
  • Any other source of capital (Private Equity partners, shareholders, trustees etc).

2. Suitability of the applicant

To govern a proposed service, applicants must provide a Police vetting report for each individual involved. These reports can be obtained from agencies approved by the NZ Police vetting services.

The applicant must specify that the report is needed for "ECE - governance" and the agency must indicate this on the request. If the agency has not requested this type of report before, they must contact the Police to set it up in their system. The full Police vetting report must be shared with the applicant, and the agency is not expected to assess the results.

The applicant must attach or upload a copy of the unaltered Police vetting report to their application, with permission from the individual who was vetted. If the report includes convictions or other information, the individual should be given the opportunity to provide additional information, such as the circumstances of the event and any mitigating factors.

Additionally, the applicant must provide a statutory declaration covering any convictions not covered by the Criminal Records (Clean Slate) Act 2004, any involvement with organisations convicted of relevant offenses, any health conditions that may affect compliance with the Education and Training Act, any property or personal orders, any debts owed to the Crown, any bankruptcies, any prohibition on being a director or promoter, any involvement in insolvent entities, any prohibition on acting as an employer or officer, and any involvement in early childhood services that had their licenses refused, suspended, or cancelled.

The Secretary will use this information, as well as any other reliable and relevant information, to determine if the applicant is fit and proper, and will provide this assessment to the Minister.


  • Visit the Police vetting website.
  • Register yourself to become an approved agency so that you can obtain Police vets. Alternatively, contact an independent vetting agency.
  • Request a Police vet. Make sure you request a vet for anyone that will be involved in the governance of this ECE service
  • Once you have received this vet, you will need to upload a copy to the Network Approval portal.
  • Prepare a statutory declaration covering details as required under the network approval provisions.

3. Capability

To be approved for a proposed early childhood service, applicants must demonstrate their ability to effectively establish and provide the service.

This criterion is in place to ensure that the network consists of competent and experienced service providers.

To meet this requirement, applicants must provide details and evidence of their relevant skills, qualifications, and experience, as well as (when applicable) the skills, qualifications, and experience of their governance members. This information should cover all aspects of establishing, governing, and providing a high-quality early childhood service, and may include a narrative on how the service will be provided, as well as relevant evidence. It is important to provide credible and reliable information, including current governance skills, rather than just plans to acquire necessary skills in the future.

For instance, applicants must provide evidence of governance members' experience in managing the proposed development, including building or renovating premises, governing or providing early childhood services or other relevant organisations, and delivering education and care with special characteristics or philosophies.

Applicants may also choose to provide information on their connections and engagement with the local community, commitment to the Treaty of Waitangi, knowledge of the Māori language and culture, and other relevant capabilities.

This information will be used to create advice for the Minister of Education, who will consider it as part of their decision on granting network approval.


Prepare a short summary document (1-2 pages), outlining your experience in these areas:

  • Relevant experience in managing the proposed development, including building or renovating related premises.
  • Relevant experience in governing or providing early childhood services or other related organisations.
  • Experience in delivering education and care that incorporates any specialized characteristics, philosophy or service provision identified by the applicant.

4. Previous licensing history

To apply for a proposed service, applicants and individuals involved in the governance of the service must provide information on all current and previous connections with licensed early childhood services. This includes roles in the day-to- day management or operation of a service, such as head teacher or center manager positions, and roles in the operation or management of whānau-led Te Kōhanga Reo and Playcentre. The licensing history of applicants will be used to evaluate their future governance capabilities.

For each service that the applicant or governance members have owned, operated, managed, or been otherwise connected with, applicants must provide the service provider name (if known), service name and address, the nature of the association with the service (such as ownership, operation, or management), and the period of time during which the individual was involved or associated with the service. If the applicant is an entity, they must also provide the same information on any other licensed early childhood service previously or currently owned, operated, or managed by, or otherwise connected with, the applicant.

This information will be used to create advice for the Minister of Education, who will consider it as part of the decision on granting network approval.


Create a table (either on Excel or Word) with the following column titles:

  • Service name
  • Service provider name
  • Address of service
  • How I was involved (this relates to your role within that service)
  • Period (the start and end month and year)

This information is needed for any service you have owned, operated or managed or that you currently own, operate or manage.

5. Attributes of the Area

To determine if the proposed service meets the needs of the proposed location, applicants must provide information on the attributes of the area, including the demography, needs of the communities and children, and availability of licensed early childhood services with different offerings (such as the provision of the Māori language). Applicants may also include information on supply, forecast growth, demand, and need for licensed early childhood services in the area. This is further described in the National Statement.

The information provided, along with additional information on the attributes of the area, will be used to create advice for the Minister, who will consider it as part of the decision on granting network approval. The National Statement outlines how the Minister will consider this information.

These requirements are technical in nature and mean that an applicant must be able to define a focus area then accurately report on the demographics, ECE demand, supply, occupancy, future growth and District Plan zonings of this area. To be able to provide this level of information you need to have access to, and an understanding of, the relevant data.

These are complex matters and it’s very hard for an ECE provider to put together a network planning report without the assistance of experts.

Establish has partnered with Kindello to create highly detailed network planning reports that cover the matters in the National Statement and Section 17 of the Act. These provide detailed reporting on all relevant matters used in the network planning approval including assessing future growth through investigations into Council growth plans and any significant developments planned.


This is the most complex part of the network approval application. We strongly recommend that you engage an expert in ECE network planning to prepare the required data and reporting. If you want to complete this assessment yourself, we recommend these steps:

  • Locate the SA2 in which your application site resides;
  • Create a Focus Area using this SA2 and adjoining SA2’s;
  • Report on the ECE provision within this Focus Area using MoE data;
  • Report on the supply, demand, occupancy and service types for the Focus area; Report on the population demographics of your Focus Area using census data from Statistics NZ;
  • Analyse the District plan zoning of the subject site and surrounding area. Provide evidence of how this area will increase or decrease in population, and the scale of these projections. This information can be found on your local council website;
  • Consider all of the above information and prepare evidence on how the proposal aligns with the network approval provisions of the Act.

6. Contents of the National Statement

To ensure that the proposed service aligns with the National Statement, applicants must identify the need the service will meet and how it will meet that need, as well as assess the relevant available information on supply and demand in the area to be served. This includes determining if the proposed service meets a priority outlined in the National Statement and to what extent. For more information, see the National Statement.


Once again, this section is complex and its tied significantly to the Attributes of the Area section above. Your network planning experts will cover this in their network planning report, if you have engaged them as per the advice above.

If you want to provide this information yourself, you need to detail and provide evidence to show:

  • whether the proposed service will meet a need in the area to be served; and
  • whether there are reasonable grounds to believe that granting approval:

i. could lead to an oversupply of licensed early childhood services in the area to be served;
ii. could help address an undersupply of licensed early childhood services in the area to be served.

The data and evidence for this section all come from Attributes of the Area section above.

7. Any other matter

Applicants will be able to provide any other information that they think is relevant to their application that is not covered in the other considerations. This will be specific to the applicant and the proposed service.

Applying for Network Approval

There are three types of information required in the application form:

Documentation written by you and agreed to by all those involved in governance of the proposed service. Examples of this are:

  • your detailed description of the proposed service including any special characteristics, and how it will meet the needs of the community
  • your description of the governance make-up and structure and how this ensures there is capability to establish and provide the service described in your application

Formal documents for each individual involved in governance of the proposed service, such as:

  • A recent police vet obtained for the purposes of network approval.
  • A statutory declaration covering the matters in the Education and Training Act.

Other information to be entered into the application form. For example: Contact details for the applicant.

  • The legal or governance structure of the applicant.
  • A list of other services owned, operated or managed by or otherwise connected with the applicant.
  • Details of any other matters relating to the suitability and the financial position of the applicant, if applicable.

You will be able to partially complete, save and return later to complete your application.

The network planning report and all other evidence will be able to be uploaded as digital files (e.g. PDF).


There is a $575 (GST inclusive) non-refundable fee to apply for network management approval.

Location Analysis Report

If you have any intention of establishing a new service or expanding an existing licence in the future, it’s in your interest to take a much closer look at this new regulation and how it impacts on your plans.