Staff at a Rotorua early childhood centre "should have called for back up" before three children escaped on trikes and got 320m down the road, according to official documents.

On March 6, the 4-year-old girls pedalled away from ABC Sunset Rotorua for two to five minutes after one climbed on top of a trike and unlocked a 1.7m gate.

According to Ministry of Education documents, the children escaped while a reliever was distracted by another child who had an "outburst" and hit a teacher with a piece of wood from the carpentry area.

The trio rode up Sunset Rd and crossed the Kusabs Rd intersection.


Staff were alerted by a member of the public, and the children were caught outside 5 Edmund Rd, despite pedalling faster "to get away from the adults". Parents were told by phone and met with management the next morning.

ABC Sunset Rotorua is licensed for 65 children, including 15 under-2-year-olds.

Rotorua Lakes Council checked the centre's building's warrant of fitness and ministry staff visited on March 8 and reviewed all procedures.

The ministry issued a provisional licence and representatives visited at least once a week for a month, and then fortnightly, until they were satisfied licence breaches were remedied.

In a non-compliance report, a centre manager said: "The head teachers are aware that they should've called for back up support as there were five staff indoors."

At the end of March, the centre applied to the Wright Family Foundation to fund a teacher aide.

The application described "high levels and feelings of stress due to the budgeted number of teachers" and that "unavailability of an extra support person" was compromising staff and child safety.

"Permanent staff member has been punched in the face within the last month ... Staff regularly spat on and children receiving injuries from other children. Six parent concerns regarding their children's safety and their children being too 'scared' to attend the centre due to the aggression of [name blanked out]."

The application said the centre worked with a "high percentage of vulnerable families" and a small number were in emergency housing.

Fiona Hughes, the deputy chief executive of the ABC centres' overseer BestStart Educare, told the Rotorua Daily Post parents had been "very considerate and understanding" after the March 6 incident.

This week Hughes said that since March, two of the girls on trikes had started school, one remained at the centre, and the child that hit the reliever was no longer there.
Rotorua Daily Post