Rotorua has more early childhood education services than the national average, but competition is high and at least two have closed in recent years because of declining rolls.
Rotorua has 105 services - for a population of 70,500 people. That is one service per 671 people, compared with one per 1020 people across New Zealand.
Between January 2014 and December 2016, 11 new services opened in Rotorua and two closed.
While none of the service providers that spoke to the Rotorua Daily Post reported declining rolls, some said they knew of others in the area struggling to fill places.
Western Heights Inspiring Kids centre manager Lily Gouws said there were three ECEs on Clayton Rd.
"There are so many on our street and even more in the surrounding area. We are very blessed though, our roll has 120 children and it's growing.
"I do know others are struggling to get numbers though, there are a lot of centres."
The Ole Schoolhouse owner Eric Hollis said he had a wait list until September.
"I don't know what the situation is for other providers but we never have to advertise. We operate in a market that makes the decisions so if a provider does not have a good reputation it could affect its roll."
BestStart Educare deputy chief executive Fiona Hughes said she was aware of Rotorua's high saturation of ECEs.
"There is nothing to stop someone setting up a centre if they think it's a good time.
"There is the potential that the Ministry of Education won't know anything about it until it's all set up and is applying for licensing.
"There are more ECEs than there is need for them but we are lucky in that our centres all sit around 90 per cent occupancy. We haven't experienced any fallout from the increased competition but being a bigger provider, we have more fat to work with, I sympathise with smaller centres."
But local ECE educator Danya Wood said she believed there were too many services in Rotorua.
"Most ECE providers are struggling to be booked. If you walk around Rotorua suburbs you will see ECEs everywhere. I often have fellow ECE teachers and owners say that they struggle because there is a centre just down the road.
"When we first built our centre in 2008 there were only four centres in Owhata, now there are at least seven."
Ms Wood said she had heard about bad experiences other ECE teachers had had.
"I have been fortunate to work in great places and with great teachers but I have heard some teachers have worked with others who don't have a passion for children so when they are delivering an environment for children, it's more about care rather than education and care.
"Great teachers are influenced by these environments and they lose the passion they had because they are just too tired."
She believed a lot of providers were struggling to fill their rolls.
"Many have to promote deals to compete with others in their community. The centre I work at the moment is great and all the teachers love what they do but currently we are only 50 per cent full with children leaving to school or another town. With all the ECEs in town it's hard to compete."
Local mum of two Kayla Poharama said it took her seven months to find a suitable ECE.
"Some of the places I went to were absolutely disgusting - kids crying, snot in their noses, carers not tending to the children.
"There's too many services to choose from in Rotorua, and in my experience there were more bad than good."
Ms Poharama, whose daughters are Kiara-Clarity Reid, 2, and Kelsey Reid, 1, said she was lucky to have found the ECE her children now attend.
"I didn't want to settle, these are the people I was leaving my children with so of course I was going to do my research and keep looking until I found the right place."
Ministry of Education head of sector enablement and support Katrina Casey said all new services, including home-based care, were assessed before being allowed to operate, then put on a probationary licence for 12 months.
"At any time we can put a provider on a provisional licence if it isn't meeting our standards. We monitor them closely and set deadlines for improvement. We will give services every opportunity to make the grade, and we'll support them with this."
Between 2014 and 2016, provisional licenses were issued to 11 ECE services.
"We respond to every complaint we receive. We investigate, and if we have concerns, we act. We have the power to carry out spot-checks of early learning services at any time if we have concerns or if we believe children are at risk in any way.
"In rare cases that a service does not improve, we will shut them down.
"The Education Review Office also reviews all services at least every four years, or more frequently if required."
As at December 31, 2016, 90.6 per cent of Rotorua ECE services were on a three or four year review cycle.
Complaints about services are published on the Ministry of Education website.
Rotorua ECE Services:
Education & Care Service: 58
Te Kohanga Reo: 22
Homebased Network: 4
Hospital based: 1