Frequently asked questions in Alert Level 3

Find answers to the latest questions as we get ready to transition to Alert Level 3.

Who can operate under Alert Level 3 in the primary sector?

Under Alert Level 3, primary sector businesses, including those previously regarded as non-essential, will be able to operate. 

Those additional sectors that will be able to operate under Alert Level 3 include, but are not limited to:

  • forestry management, harvesting, wood processing and forestry sale/exports
  • shearing, wool handling, scouring, processing and wool sale/exports
  • flower, bulb and seed growing, harvesting, processing and sale/exports.

What will be expected of businesses?

Under Alert Level 3 businesses must protect their workers and the public by limiting face-to-face contact and reducing the potential spread of COVID-19 using measures such as physical distancing and additional hygiene protocols. 

If these measures cannot be taken, premises should remain closed.

Specifically, for non-essential businesses to operate under Alert Level 3:

  • All non-essential primary industry businesses will have to operate safely to protect staff and the public from COVID-19.
  • Businesses cannot offer services that involve close personal contact, unless it is an emergency or critical situation.
  • Businesses must adhere to conditions on gatherings.
  • Retail premises can only open to customers for delivery or pick-up-at-door.  No browsing of products or consumption of food and drink will be allowed on premises.
  • Online options need to be considered for primary sector businesses where the public would normally attend, such as stock sales and wool auctions.
  • Businesses that keep animals, such as zoos and aquariums are not permitted to open to the public
  • Employees should work from home if possible.

Information on Alert Level 3 on COVID-19

Can I operate if I provide support services to the sector?

Yes.  Businesses that supply support to primary sector businesses can operate, provided they protect their workers and the public by limiting personal contact and reducing the potential spread of COVID-19 (e.g., using physical distancing and implementing additional hygiene measures).

Physical distancing information on COVID-19

What are examples of primary sector support services?

Under Alert Level 3, firms that supply support to primary sector businesses will also be able to operate.

Examples of the types of support services/activities that can operate under Alert level 3 include, but are not limited to:

  • Farriers
  • Installation of cattle yards
  • Supply of sphagnum moss for use in water treatment
  • Pest management (incl. vector control)
  • Fencing
  • Farm advisory services
  • Research and science servicing the primary sectors
  • Wholesalers [subject to suitable protocols being established]
  • Firewood, manufacturing and timber supplies
  • Farm property sales and settlements
  • Relocation to new farm property
  • Construction of farm sheds, barns, herd homes
  • Routine plant, farm and gear maintenance (including that which is non-essential)
  • Manufacture, distribution and application of agricultural inputs (including that which is non-essential)

Stock sales and wool auctions are permitted - subject to suitable protocols being established, and run online where possible.

Agricultural supply stores and pet stores can operate, as long as they deliver goods or provide contactless pickup.

What safety assurances does MPI need?

Under Alert Level 3 all businesses that are permitted to resume operations need to have a COVID-19 safety plan that sets out how they’ll operate safely.

More guidance on these safety assurances can be found on the Primary sector businesses page.

Primary sector businesses in Alert Level 3

How long will Alert Level 3 stay in place?

The Government will determine how long New Zealand will stay under Alert Level 3.


When can I hire new employees?

You can hire employees at any alert level. However interviews should be done remotely at Alert Level 3 and 4. You can carry out in-person interviews at Alert Levels 1 and 2.

Can I travel for work?

Regions may operate at different alert levels. If you are travelling, check whether a different alert level applies in your region or destination.

At Alert Level 3, everyone can travel for work within their region, or to a neighbouring region. You should only travel if it is necessary. Essential workers can travel outside of their regions, where it is necessary to do so.

At Alert Level 2, you can travel for work anywhere in New Zealand, but should only do so if necessary.

When can I meet with new or existing clients?

At Alert Levels 3 and 4, you should only meet with existing or new clients remotely, unless this is in the course of providing an essential service. You can meet clients in person at Levels 1 and 2.

My staff say they cannot work until the schools have opened back up – what should I do?

Under Level 3 those who can work from home should continue to do so.

Usual employment rights and obligations continue during the COVID-19 pandemic.  Employers and employees need to keep in regular contact and act in good faith. 

If an employee has personal commitments such as childcare or caring for a sick family member, they can use their existing leave entitlements. Options could include taking accrued annual leave, sick leave, and annual leave in advance, paid special leave, or unpaid leave. 

Guidance on the Employment New Zealand website

My business still can’t fully operate under Alert Level 3 – what financial support is available?

If your business is unable to safely operate in some way at Alert Level 3, we encourage you to seek out advice now.  There are lots of organisations who want to help. 

Go to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) for guidance information and a list of government agencies.  Federated Farmers, your industry group, or professional body can also help.

MBIE guidance

List of government agencies

Can farmers’ markets, cellar door and gate sales be held during Alert Level 3?

Sales of primary produce direct to consumers can be done only by contactless delivery or pre-arranged contactless pick up.  In other words, consumers cannot physically browse for goods. 

This will mean that farmers’ markets cannot be held, but pre-arranged collection of goods bought online or by phone can be arranged.

Can independent butchers, bakeries and greengrocers operate?

Yes, if they deliver or offer pre-arranged collection of goods bought online or by phone.  Consumers cannot physically browse for goods.

Can I fish recreationally?

Recreational and other non-commercial fishing can be undertaken using hand-gathering methods in shallow water or fishing from shore or wharves only.

The most important principles here are to:

  • stay close to home
  • stay 2 metres away from people not in your bubble
  • avoid activities that could get you hurt and require medical care or rescuing (putting essential workers at risk). This means people should not be fishing from rocks or fishing from a boat (boating is not allowed).
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