Childcare centres have started hiking fees to parents as teachers demand higher pay amid a critical shortage of qualified staff.
Kindercare chief executive Kelly Wendelborn said he has raised fees this month by $1 or $2 a day for 4200 families across his 45 centres to attract and keep staff.
"All of that is going through to pay increases," he said.
Early childhood education (ECE) leaders will meet Education Minister Chris Hipkins tomorrowto seek an urgent increase in Government funding rates to stave off further fee increases as a $75 million pay rise for kindergarten teachers hits a sector already facing a staffing crisis.
A survey by National Party ECE spokesperson Nicola Willis has found that 71 per cent of ECE centres have "had to hire an unqualified teacher as a result of the lack of qualified teachers available".
Michelle Pratt, director of Auckland-based New Shoots, said qualified staff across her 10 centres had dropped from around 96 per cent of teachers to 82 or 83 per cent - only just above the 80 per cent qualified level required to get the maximum Ministry of Education funding rate.
National statistics show that unqualified teachers in education and care centres leapt by 53 per cent in the past four years, from 6225 in 2014 to 9518 last year, while qualified teachers increased by only 15 per cent, from 14,608 to 16,839.
The shortage reflects a 55 per cent plunge in domestic students training for ECE teaching since a higher funding rate for centres with 100 per cent qualified staff was abolished in 2010 - an even bigger drop than for trainee teachers for primary and secondary schools which also face a staffing crisis.
The Government has given pay rises of 18.5 per cent over three years to primary and kindergarten teachers at the top of the basic pay scale.
Teachers in private and community-owned ECE centres are not paid directly by the Government and most do not have collective agreements so they are free to negotiate whatever salary they can get individually.
However centres need to fund salary increases either by seeking higher Government subsidy rates or by raising fees for parents.
Early Childhood Council chief executive Peter Reynolds said previous Governments raised subsidy rates after every pay rise for kindergarten teachers until 2011, but the subsidies had not kept pace with inflation since then.
Funding rates increased by 1.6 per cent from the start of this year, and the May Budget provided for a further 1.8 per cent from next January, but that was before last month's kindergarten teachers' pay deal.
Willis's survey, which drew 2011 responses from the country's 4500 ECE services, found that 78 per cent said it was harder to find qualified ECE teachers now than three years ago.
Nationally, 71 per cent said they had had to hire unqualified teachers as a result and 35 per cent had reduced teacher numbers.
The worst shortages were in Auckland, where 79 per cent have had to hire unqualified teachers and 42 per cent have reduced teacher numbers.
Willis said the Government could tackle the shortage immediately by making it easier for trained ECE teachers to register again after taking time out to have children, speeding up police vetting, recognising more overseas qualifications and allowing primary-trained teachers to be recognised more easily as "persons responsible" for ECE centres.
Hipkins said he would listen to sector leaders tomorrow, but noted the funding increases already approved in the Government's first two Budgets.
"Budget 2019 also provided $25 million over the next four years for tertiary providers involved in initial teacher education including ECE teacher education and included ECE teachers as part of the immigration skills shortage list."