Tania Mace offers this history of kindergartens in New Zealand (and Auckland in particular, focusing on the St James Kindergarten):
“In late nineteenth century New Zealand child welfare had become a particular concern, and from the 1890s legislative changes sought to better protect the children of the nation. Tighter restrictions were place on the employment of children, more stringent school attendance regulations were enacted and the age of consent was raised. Charitable and private institutions were formed, including the Plunket Society, that focussed on scientific childrearing practices and generally improving the lot of women and children. Motherhood was elevated to a new level of importance.” (p.3)
“At the same time perceptions of the causes and remedies of poverty were changing. Benevolent organisations began to shy away from doling out financial assistance and there was an increasing emphasis on individual responsibility for moral failing, and in this context, the poor were often seen as partly responsible for their situation. Education was perceived as a means of helping the poor help themselves, and the earlier in life that such education began, the more likely that it would be successful. It was felt that the poor could be taught to abandon their lazy, drunken, thriftless and depraved habits and thus improve their lives. This optimistic view ignored the fact that poverty had a variety of other causes and not all poor people could be blamed for their situation. It was in this context that the Auckland Kindergarten Association (AKA) was formed in 1908.” (p.4)
“There were at least two fee paying kindergartens operating in …Auckland when the AKA was founded. Free kindergartens had already been established in other urban centres, with Dunedin leading the way in 1889, followed by Christchurch in 1904 and Wellington in 1906. There was much scope for kindergarten work in the deprived areas of New Zealand’s largest city, Auckland.” (p.6)
Ref: Tania Mace (2013) A History of St James Kindergarten: 1913-2013. St James Kindergarten, Auckland Kindergarten Association: Auckland.