Early learning services are getting a $151.1 million funding boost in Budget 2020 to improve the pay of up to 17,000 qualified teachers.
Minister of Education Chris Hipkins said the funding, which was allocated over four years, would go towards closing the "significant gap" between early childhood education centre (ECE) teachers, and other teachers in schools and kindergartens that had built up over time.
Currently, teachers working in early childhood education centres have a minimum salary of $45,491 or $46,832, depending on their qualifications.
On 1 July 2020, the minimum salary will increase to $49,862 - bringing them in line with kindergarten teachers' pay.
"As we respond to the impact of Covid-19 to our society and economy, the government remains committed to fair pay for lower paid workers, especially the workers who have helped get the country moving again," Hipkins said.
"This funding boost goes some way towards levelling the playing field for ECE centres looking to employ qualified teachers, but I do acknowledge that fully closing the gap between education and care services and kindergartens will be a challenge to be addressed over a number of Budgets."
Budget 2020 will also see $36.2m of additional funding over four years to support home-based early learning services transition to a more professionalised educator workforce.
"Home-based early childhood education has been the fastest growing part of the early learning sector. In the future, at least 80 percent of the home-based educator workforce will hold a required qualification, to ensure better and more consistent quality," Hipkins said.
Playcentres will also get an extra $3.1m over four years.
Associate Education Minister Tracey Martin said the increase "will help support more than 400 playcentres so they can continue to provide this unique early learning choice to about 9500 children and their families".
The Ministry of Education's Early Childhood Education Provider Assessment Group will also get $7.8m to continue its work to ensure early childhood education services meet quality and safety standards.