Te Hanganga me te Hītori

Formation and history

Te Rito Maioha Early Childhood New Zealand (ECNZ) is a national organisation that was formed as the NZ Association of Child Care Centres Inc in 1963 by Sonja Davies and other childcare licencees.

This group advocated for regulatory improvements and funding to support quality improvements in early childhood education.

Here are the significant milestones in the history of ECNZ:


We registered with New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA) as a Private Training Establishment accredited to offer the (Level 6) Certificate in Childcare


We developed a relationship with Pacific Nations peoples culminating in a joint training initiative with PACIFICA Inc


We received approval from NZQA and New Zealand Teachers Council to offer a (Level 7) Diploma of Teaching (Early Childhood Education)


We adopted name Te Tari Puna Ora o Aotearoa/NZ Childcare Association (NZCA) as an outward sign of our commitment to the principles of Te Tiriti o Waitangi and made changes to our structures and policies


We commissioned an external review of our structures, leading to adoption of a new governance model


We received approval from NZQA and NZTC to offer a (Level 7) National Diploma in Teaching (Early Childhood Education Pasifika)


We won our first Ministry of Education national professional development contract to introduce Kei Tua o te Pae Assessment for Learning: Early Childhood Exemplars to early childhood services. We also won a general professional development programmes contract in partnership with Teuila consultancy to deliver professional development to Pasifika centres in Auckland


Our own customised professional development workshops, Fuel Te Kai a te Rangatira were offered for the first time


We launched our Teacher Registration Advice and Guidance programme


We gained an exemption from the moratorium on developing new ECE degree programmes.


Started work on developing the ECNZ degree programme.


Our degree programme was approved by NZQA and NZTC for delivery in 2011.

The history of ECNZ from 1963 to 2003 is documented in Concerning Women Considering Children (May, Helen. 2003. New Zealand).


Early Childhood Teachers’ Work in Education and Care Centres: Profiles, patterns and purposes (Flagship 2 research project) was released in this year.


The Association celebrated its 50th year with a custom built exhibition which toured the motu telling the story of the Association thus far. Gatherings were held at each of the Association’s teaching bases.

The book, The Changing Fortunes of Childcare, 2003-2013 was written by Professor Helen May, and updated Concerning Women Considering Children (2003).
The final students in our Diploma of Teaching (ECE) and the National Diploma in Teaching (ECE Pasifika) completed their studies in 2013.

Flagship 3, Te Whakapakari Kaiārahi Ahutanga Ako Kōhungahunga – Developing Pedagogical Leadership in Early Childhood Education was released.

Due to falling demand for ECE initial teacher education as the sector reaches higher levels of qualified staff, Council made the decision to close three teaching bases. These were in Kaitaia, Whakatane and Waitākere.

Our highly respected National Kaumātua, Sam Jackson, passed away.

Approval is gained to teach our first leadership qualifications:

•    Postgraduate Certificate in Leadership (Early Childhood Education) Te Tiwhikete Paerua i te Ārhitanga (ECE)
•    Postgraduate Diploma in Leadership (Early Childhood Education) Te Tītohu Paerua i te Ārahitanga (ECE)


Our first cohort of more than 350 Bachelor of Teaching (ECE) students graduated this year. 

Our first cohort of postgraduate leadership students begins study.

The highest profile keynote in the history of the Association, Professor Robert Winston attends our national conference.


We changed our name to Te Rito Maioha Early Childhood New Zealand (ECNZ) to better reflect our new vision and reaffirm our commitment to raising the quality of early childhood education in New Zealand.

Our revered President, Judy Kaa, tragically passed away following a battle with leukaemia. A postgraduate scholarship is created in her honour.
Bachelor of Teaching (ECE) begins being taught via blended delivery.

The first cohort of postgraduate students enrolled in the diploma programme completed their studies in 2015.

We began to build international linkages with China. A staff delegation travelled to China in September as members of a Wellington City mayoral delegation visiting Xiamen (Wellington’s sister city), X’ian, Beijing and Shanghai. We took part in a series of meetings with Chinese early childhood education and tertiary providers and the Education Bureau (Ministry of Education equivalent). Meetings were also held in Nanning outside of the mayoral delegation.


Chief Executive Nancy Bell steps down after 13 years and Kathy Wolfe is appointed in the role.

Approval is gained from NZQA to teach the Graduate Diploma of Teaching (ECE).

We acquire, from Rangi Ruru ECE College, the Graduate Certificate Infant and Toddler Wellbeing and Learning and take our first cohort.

Tribute to Sonja Davies

By Helen May, Life Member

Sonja Davies, the founder and Patron of ECNZ and staunch advocate for women and families, passed away in Wellington on Sunday 12 June 2005.

We pay tribute to this remarkable New Zealander whose untiring work and support for standards in childcare and training for early childhood workers began the journey toward current day developments. We remember gratefully that the journey was begun more than fifty years ago by Sonja and those she gathered around her to demand higher standards, government regulation and financial support for childcare centres.

Sonja was a pioneer who always led by example. The Early Childhood Workers Union became a reality in 1982 due to Sonja’s support of women who worked in childcare. She was also the first woman Vice President of the Federation of Labour, a founder of the NZ Working Women’s Council and a member of the World Peace Council. In 1987 she was elected to Parliament and was among the first recipients of the Order of New Zealand.

Sonja’s remarkable contribution to women and children will not be forgotten as her work is carried on by past and present members of ECNZ.