Who we are

NZEI Te Riu Roa is the union of more than 46,000 principals, teachers and support staff and specialist staff working in primary, area and secondary schools, early childhood centres, Learning Support and school advisory services. We operate from a national office in Wellington and 12 regional offices across the country. 

The NZEI Te Riu Roa vision is to be the most powerful education union in New Zealand. Our mission is to advocate for a strong, vibrant and well-resourced public education system where all tamariki can reach their full potential.

Paper marae suspended from the ceiling by string.

Support when you need it

No matter where you are in your career, sometimes you just need a little support. NZEI Te Riu Roa’s industrial advocates, legal experts, field officers and member support officers are here to help when you need it. From little things like subscription rates queries to more stressful incidents like employment disputes, your union has your back.

Members standing together and singing at Hui-ā-tau 2022

Your voice, your power

As a member of NZEI Te Riu Roa, you have a direct hand in building the world that you want to see. We plan, make decisions and act as a collective. The staff based in offices around the country are here to support you to exercise your rights and organise opportunities for you to show your collective strength. We believe in the power of collective action. We are stronger together and no-one is better placed than you, our members, to speak to the issues facing the education sector.

Members voting on resolutions at Hui-ā-tau 2022.

Rules, Policy and Ethics

As a registered trade union in Aotearoa New Zealand, members are guided by three key documents. These are the union rules, union policy and a code of ethics. 

You can download the most recent copies of these documents below.

Our history

For more than a century, NZEI Te Riu Roa members have been a force for change in the education sector in Aotearoa. Check out some of the key moments from our history.



Cuts don't heal protest

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Education Act implemented “Tomorrow’s Schools” reforms

Education Boards were abolished and replaced by individual Boards of Trustees for each school


Employment Contracts Act

Employment Contracts Act promoted individual contracts over collective agreements


Employment Contracts Act

Employment Contracts Act promoted individual contracts over collective agreements


Employment Contracts Act

Employment Contracts Act promoted individual contracts over collective agreements


Education Act introduced universal free compulsory secondary education

In 1944 NZEI published “Educational Reconstruction which set out proposed reforms for the education system in Aotearoa in a post war world. Free, compulsory and universal education was subsequently introduced later that year through the Education Act.


PPTA formed


Familiar calls for smaller class sizes

The pictured pamphlet from 1957 illustrates the spread of class sizes across the country. Over 60 years later and the underlying principle remains that smaller classes are better for teachers and students.


NZEI Te Riu Roa celebrates its 75th Jubilee


Government Service Equal Pay Act established equal pay for equal work in the state sector

This act legislated the obligation for state service workers to be paid equally for equal work without gender being a consideration when setting wages. This was a landmark step towards pay equity in Aotearoa.


The construction of Education House on Willis St in Wellington

Education House was the home of NZEI Te Riu Roa, amongst other varied uses over the years, right through until March 2021. The site has since been repurposed into a hall of residence for students at Victoria University of Wellington.


Plugged into politics

NZEI Te Riu Roa has not only held a seat at the table of policy discussions for decades – they’ve also hosted one. These photos of Keith Holyoake, then Prime Minister and Norman Kirk, then Leader of the Opposition and future Prime Minister, addressing the NZEI Te Riu Roa annual meeting demonstrates the union’s deep-seated connection with the highest level of politics and policy.


International Year for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

As true then as it is today: what is good for tamariki Māori is good for all tamariki. In the words of a report to the 1971 annual meeting on Māori education: “By focussing on the problems of the Maoris [sic], much can be more easily lent to solve problems and this benefit our society as a whole.”


Equal Pay Act extended equal pay for equal work to the private sector

Where the Government Service Equal Pay Act laid the foundations for equal pay in the public sector, this act extended its principals to private sector employee. It afforded some level of protection for employees whose occupation was considered less valuable on account of being women’s work.


The first Kōhanga Reo was opened in Wainuiomata

The Kōhanga Reo movement was driven by Māori in response to drastic drops in the knowledge and use of Te Reo Māori over the 20th century. By 1993, there were more Kōhanga Reo around the country than kindergartens or playcentres despite a complete lack of government funding or support.


The first Kura Kaupapa Māori established in West Auckland

Much like Kōhanga Reo, these early Kura had to fundraise to operate. They delivered the state curriculum in a full immersion setting. It wasn’t until 1989 that the government began supporting these kura and 1990 before it supported the establishment of new Kura Kaupapa Māori.


Education Act implemented

This act laid out the shape of the sector in New Zealand in many ways. Among many stipulations, it implemented the “Tomorrow’s Schools” reforms and abolished Education Boards to be replaced by individual Boards of Trustees for each school.


Employment Contracts Act passed into law

This act delt a severe blow to unionism in Aotearoa and marks the beginning of a steep decline in employment conditions in the years following. It effectively promoted individual employment agreements by making union membership voluntary and removing any special status of unions in negotiations.


School support staff join NZEI Te Riu Roa and campaigns against Bulk Funding began

The government of the day proposed a move to bulk funding for schools – that each school would be given a bulk amount of money each year and they would choose how to spend it – including setting wages for teachers. Parents and teachers opposed this move as it would lead to rich schools and poor schools


Early childhood teachers join NZEI Te Riu Roa

Following the pressure created by the Employment Contracts Act 1991, members of NZEI Te Riu Roa and the Combined Early Childhood Union of Aotearoa (CECUA) voted to amalgamate the two organisations to build their collective strength across both sectors.


NZEI Te Riu Roa elected its first Māori President, Te Iria Mārama Whiu

Te Iria was a lifetime advocate for NZEI Te Riu Roa and the education sector. She was staunchly committed to quality public education. Such was her commitment to the cause that she passed away while in attendance at Te Kāhui Whetu in 2015 and was mourned by many colleagues, friends and whanau within the union and beyond.


Pay parity for primary teachers negotiated by NZEI Te Riu Roa

“Pay parity was not only a victory for teachers but for all women … pay parity constitutes a considerable step towards addressing the low pay rates and undervaluing of women workers that are so much a part of the New Zealand labour market.” – Liz Patara during her presidential address, 1998 Annual Meeting


Employment Relations Act replaced the Employment Contracts Act 1991

While the new act didn’t undo all the damage done in 1991, this act promoted collective bargaining, permanent employment over fixed term and paid employment education leave. Of note was the requirement for unions and employers to negotiate in good faith; a principle that is still central to the way that NZEI Te Riu Roa negotiates collective agreements.


First ever collective agreement for GSE support workers negotiated by NZEI Te Riu Roa


Pay parity for kindergarten teachers negotiated by NZEI Te Riu Roa


Pay parity for early childhood teachers negotiated by NZEI Te Riu Roa Paid classroom release time won for primary teachers


35,000 signatures delivered to the Associate Minister for Education calling for an end to bulk funding for support staff

This was a landmark moment for support staff members of NZEI Te Riu Roa, banding together and making a clear statement to the government about their value to the sector. The signatures were presented in physical boxes to the associate minister to demonstrate the scale of their support.


Kindergarten Strikes across the country

The nationwide strike included 1700 teachers in 22 cities and towns, which was the largest strike in the 116-year history of the kindergarten movement. It was part of a bigger campaign for conditions in kindergartens, lasting over 2 years.


NZEI Te Riu Roa wins largest ever package of pay settlements for primary teachers, principals and school support staff

Our organisation structure

Democracy is at the core of NZEI Te Riu Roa’s structure. We seek member input at all levels, from governance through to on-the-ground action.

Marangai mai kia kōnekeneke!

Whakauru mai ki a NZEI Te Riu Roa.

Whakauru mai kia karanga tātou mō te pai o te utu, kia pai hoki ngā here me nga putanga kei te taha mātauranga.