Frequently asked questions in Alert Level 4
Find answers to the latest questions about working within the Level 4 Alert.
Topics on this page:
- Essential business
- Advice for businesses and workers
- Advice on travel and movements for essential workers
- Pets and recreation
Am I an essential business?
For primary industries, if your business falls under 1 or more of these categories, you are considered an “essential business” or “essential service”:
- any entity involved in the packaging, production and processing of food and beverage products, whether for domestic consumption or export
- any entity involved in relevant support services, such as food safety and verification, inspection or associated laboratory services and biosecurity functions
- any entity providing veterinary services
- any entity whose closure would jeopardise the maintenance of animal health or welfare standards.
Up to date information on what is an essential businesses is found on the COVID19 website.
Further details on what are essential services with regard to primary industries and food production, including support services, are found on the essential businesses page.
Primary industries essential businesses
Is forestry an essential service?
Wood processing and forestry is NOT an essential service, unless a business is producing essential food packaging, fuel or pharmaceutical items, as identified by MPI below:
- stand-alone chemical plant, for the purposes of producing chlorine for water treatment
- secondary wood processes for the purpose of producing shipping pallets, packing cases and other packaging requirements for supporting food, beverage and pharmaceutical supply
- chip and pellet production for supply of essential domestic and industrial heating (such as for hospitals and food processors) using existing raw fibre stock
- Norske Skog for a limited time period to produce sufficient newsprint for newspapers for 4 weeks
- dispatch operators within the supply chain ensuring the supply of existing stock materials to these producers. This includes dispatching existing stock from sawmills
- forestry plant nurseries can carry out maintenance on capital stock and plants to keep them alive.
Businesses should only operate the part of their operations necessary for supplying these essential services, and must be implementing plans to ensure safety of workers and social distancing while on site and travelling to work.
Is the cut flowers, flower buds and bulbs industry an essential service?
The cut flowers/flower buds/bulbs industry is NOT an essential service within Alert Level 4.
Businesses involved in the industry have permission to operate at the minimum required to preserve their capital stock. However, they cannot sell their product, including to supermarkets and dairies.
This approach is consistent with the general policy on all nurseries, which can also operate at the minimum required to preserve their capital stock.
For information on financial support, as well as applications that can be made, call the free government helpline on 0800 779 997 (8am to 1am, 7 days a week), or go to the COVID-19 website.
Is commercial fishing considered an essential service?
Commercial fishers are an essential service and will continue operating.
I’ve registered as an essential primary sector business or support service – what happens next?
Our staff have been reviewing registrations, and based on this, may need to follow up with emails, phone calls or in some cases, site visits.
If our staff need to visit a business, they will carry MPI identification (with some being Warranted Officers) and will be conducting their duties safely by following Ministry of Health guidelines around social distancing and proper hygiene.
MPI will generally advise of verification visits on the day. Not all visits will be notified.
If you are visited, verifiers will ask some questions about your registration and may wish to view how you are putting in place the plans you included in your registration. Where issues are identified, these will be talked through with actions identified and noted. This could also involve a follow-up visit.
If a business is not an essential service or support service, or if we have advised a business not to operate, they should already be closed.
Will MPI close down businesses if they don’t meet the actions or plan they’ve set out in the Register?
If any issues or concerns are identified, we’ll discuss these with the business so they can take corrective action. This may also require a follow-up site visit. If corrective actions haven’t been undertaken, we’ll consider further action.
What is safe social distancing in my work place?
All establishments should strive for a minimum social distancing of 2 metres, in accordance with Ministry of Health guidance and MPI advice.
Where 2-metre distancing of work stations cannot be reasonably maintained on processing lines, in accordance with MOH advice, MPI expects that measures be put in place for workers at stations between 1 and 2 metres.
Alternative ways of working to keep employees safe, include shift-based working, staggered meal breaks, flexible leave arrangements and providing personal protective equipment.
It is necessary to follow basic hygiene measures to keep yourself and your co-workers from COVID-19. They are the most important way to stop the spread of infections.
Can I travel to a farm or orchard for work?
You can leave your house to go to work if you work for an essential service in primary industries such as a farm or orchard. Ensure you have a letter from your employer to say you work for an essential service in the primary industries.
It is necessary to follow basic hygiene measures to keep yourself and your co-workers from COVID-19.
What happens if someone is sick with Covid-19 on a farm?
Like other businesses, farmers should ensure staff who are ill with COVID-like symptoms do not work. Report the situation to the Healthline or local GP. Please telephone – do not arrive in person.
If someone becomes sick with COVID-19 it’s critical they self-isolate, which means stay at home and recover. Visit the COVID-19 website for more advice. Also check with your sector industry body such as DairyNZ or Beef+Lamb New Zealand.
Can I transport stock within the boundaries of my property?
Yes. The aim of the current Level 4 Alert lockdown is to protect human health, through staying at home and keeping away from other people. Moving stock around your own property is fine, as long as you make sure to take necessary precautions to ensure your health and safety.
Can I arrange for transport of stock between my main farm and my run-off, or transport my own stock?
Yes. Farming is an essential service and the needs of your stock must be met. If you need to transport stock to your run-off in order to keep them fed and healthy then you may do this.
During the Level 4 Alert, we are all asked to stay home and away from others as much as possible. As such, transport arrangements with your local stock carrier must allow for no direct contact between people. Talk to your transporter about the protocols they have in place for staff, owner and animals.
The important thing is to remain a physical distance of at least 2 metres from other people and practice good hygiene practices, such as hand washing.
Can I drove stock between my main farm and my run-off?
Yes, but within reason. Farming is as an essential service and the needs of your stock must be met. If you need to drove stock to your run-off in order to keep them fed and healthy then you may do this.
During the Level 4 Alert we are all asked to stay home and away from others as much as possible. As droving a long distance may take many days, it may be better to arrange transport with your local stock carrier.
The important thing is to remain a physical distance of at least 2 metres from other people and practice good hygiene practices such as hand washing.
Can I transport stock for sale?
Yes. We recognise that farmers may need to sell stock during the Level 4 Alert period, to manage their feed budget and prepare for winter. This is particularly important in drought stricken areas.
While physical sale yards may be the usual way you buy and sell stock, during these extraordinary times sale yards will be closed in order to limit the spread of COVID-19 and protect New Zealanders. Farmers will need to look at alternative means of selling, such as online and paddock sales.
Transport of animals between properties, or between farm and slaughter plant can be arranged with your local stock carrier. Talk to your transporter about the protocols they have in place for staff, owner and animals. We’re encouraging transport companies to register through the MPI website.
Dairy farmers who are selling autumn-born calves directly to another farmer to rear must adhere to safe hygiene practices and social distancing rules. If possible prepare the calves for transport and leave them in a designated collection pen. Wipe down any surfaces the person collecting the calves may have touched.
Can shearing contractors and their staff still operate?
If you are able to shear or crutch your own sheep, this is preferable. Shearing is considered an essential service only where it is necessary for animal welfare and it cannot be deferred, or if it's undertaken to enable hygienic processing of the sheep. This means you can only provide shearing or crutching services if it is likely the sheep would suffer pain or distress otherwise, and when they are due to go for slaughter.
If you need to use a shearing contractor, they must operate in a way that minimises the risk of COVID-19 transmission.
Can I still buy feed from rural supply stores?
Animal health and welfare is recognised as essential, and includes providing your animals with food, water and any other aspect that you need to provide to meet your responsibilities under the Animal Welfare Act and relevant codes of welfare.
Rural supply stores are essential businesses and may continue operating subject to certain conditions. Customers are not permitted into the store at all. You will need to contact your supplier by phone or email to see how they are taking orders, e.g. over the phone, online ordering. You will also need to confirm with them how to pay for your order and how it will get to you (pick-up or delivery) – this all needs to be contactless if possible. Some stores are filling orders for their account holders only while we are at Alert Level 4, while others are also processing orders for members of the public.
Who do I go to if I need help and advice on my business operations?
The COVID-19 website is a source of information for businesses relating to essential services and on financial support available.
Business owners should also seek advice from their key sector groups, such as DairyNZ, Beef and Lamb NZ, Horticulture New Zealand, their co-op and Federated Farmers regarding aspects such as business continuity, animal welfare and labour needs.
Horticulture New Zealand
This advice is specifically intended for those essential workers doing jobs where they need to travel from one place to another, potentially from region to region, either for their current work, or to pick up new work in the primary industries.
This guidance to ensure primary sector essential workers leave, travel and arrive safely at their new place of employment.
Please note that:
- workers engaged under the Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme will need to meet additional requirements, over and above those set out in this guidance. Additional information on RSE worker requirements can be found here.
- additional information for moving day is currently being developed with the assistance of industry and will be available shortly.
Who is allowed to travel?
You are allowed to travel if you are an essential worker in the primary industries and it is necessary for you to travel to carry out this work. This can include moving location to take up confirmed new employment in an essential role.
Before you travel you must meet the following public health criteria. You may only travel if you:
- are not diagnosed with COVID-19 (or have been declared as recovered by a medical doctor)
- do not have symptoms consistent with COVID-19
- are not awaiting results for COVID19 testing
- are not a close contact of a suspected/probable/confirmed case of COVID-19, and,
- have not travelled internationally within the last 14 days.
Always check the latest information at Covid19 before you travel.
Can you give me examples of the kind of people working in the primary industries who would be eligible to travel?
- you could be a contract milker moving from one farm to another.
- you could be a backpacker moving from picking apples in Hawke’s Bay to pick Kiwifruit in Northland
- you could be picking grapes in the wine industry, moving from one vineyard to another.
What do you mean by travel?
Essential workers carrying out work in the primary industries, particularly those that carry out seasonal work, are often required to travel further for their jobs. Many will need to move towns, some will move regions, and others may need to move islands.
This guidance is specifically targeted at those people who are moving from one part of New Zealand to another part of New Zealand to continue carrying out their essential work. Travel of this kind will normally require travel by car, ferry or plane.
If I am an essential worker, can I travel anywhere I like?
You can travel only if it is for the purpose of carrying out essential work. Your travel is limited only to the travel that is absolutely necessary for you to do your job, or get to your new job if you are changing your seasonal work. For example, a trip to the beach or the park is not travel required to carry out essential work.
How do I know that my employer is an essential business?
Information on essential businesses can be found our website and on MBIE’s website.
Before you travel
I am carrying out essential work in a seasonal industry and that season is coming to an end. Am I allowed to travel to obtain new work?
Yes, provided that the new work is also for an essential service and the employment is confirmed before you travel.
Can I take my family with me when I move?
Yes, your family can travel with you provided your family are already part of your bubble and stay within your bubble for the entire duration of your travel and your time working in the new place.
If your family are not part of your bubble then they should stay where they are until it is safer to move around.
As part of the process of moving, I will need to leave my accommodation. What are my obligations about resolving my tenancy?
Information on resolving your tenancy can be found on the Tenancy Services website.
I don’t have a job yet but I know that the industry is picking up and there will be work available – can I still travel?
No - you must have a concrete reason to travel. This should include an agreed job offer or contract from an employer in an essential industry.
If I am travelling for work, do I need to have a travel plan before I travel and if so, what needs to be included?
It is highly advisable that all essential workers have a travel plan, especially if you are going to be travelling long distances. Your travel plan should include basic information that explains why your travel is necessary and the steps you are taking to ensure you are keeping yourself and others safe.
Please note that if you are employed under the RSE scheme then a travel plan is mandatory. Guidance specifically for RSE workers can be found on Immigration New Zealand’s website.
Do I need to have arranged my accommodation before I begin my travel?
Yes, you must have a place to stay when you arrive and you must be able to self-isolate within this space. Do not travel if you do not already have accommodation organised at the other end. Some employers will either offer accommodation, or be able to help you arrange this, so speaking to your future employer will be a good place to start.
I am part of the Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme – is there any additional information that I need to know?
If you are part of the RSE scheme then your employer is fully responsible for your safety while in transit and will need to provide the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) with additional information. This is because RSE workers are regulated under a different arrangement than other migrants.
RSE employers are required to submit travel and accommodation plans to Immigration that meet the Ministry of Health’s COVID-19 Alert Level 4 guidelines. INZ and the Labour Inspectorate must give approval before any worker is relocated. Approved workers will have an authorised letter for their travel.
Teams of RSE employees are treated as a bubble that will not interact with other groups outside of it. Each bubble must be transported in isolation between regions and continue to be isolated when accommodated at the new location. RSEs are responsible for supplying personal protective equipment (PPE) for their employees.
What do I need to know before I can start employing people in the primary industries?
The first thing you should do is check whether you need to be registered as an essential business with MPI. Information on criteria for registration, and the process for applying, can be found on our essential businesses page.
If you are an essential service provider and the person you are employing is for the purposes of carrying out this essential work, then there are some basic things you need to do to operate your business in a way that minimises the risk of COVID-19 transmission.
- minimise, or eliminate if possible, physical interactions amongst staff and with and between customers,
- ensure appropriate health, hygiene and safety measures are in place, and
- restrict activity to only what is essential during the Alert 4 period.
It is your responsibility to decide how to best do this. We would expect practices to include the likes of:
- limiting, or eliminating, staff interaction e.g. through physical distancing, split shifts, staggered meal breaks, and flexible working arrangements.
- limiting, or eliminating, interaction with and between customers e.g. through online or phone orders, contactless delivery, or managed entry (while also avoiding crowding outside) and physical distancing both inside and outside the premises.
- hygiene basics of hand washing and sanitisers.
- frequent cleaning of premises, especially counters and eftpos terminals, and other high-touch surfaces. Cleaning advice is available on the Ministry of Health(MoH) website.
- protective equipment for staff as appropriate.
For comprehensive guidance, please refer to the MBIE’s website.
I have employed a worker to come work for me – what kind of information do I need to provide that person before they leave their current employment?
It is highly advisable that you provide the worker with some form of documentation, such as a contract, that confirms both that you are an essential business and that the employee is an essential worker within that business.
If you are able to make arrangements for your workers’ transport and accommodation, then we would encourage you to do so. This will help in the event the Ministry of Health needs to carry out contact tracing. It will help you ensure that the worker arrives safely and is able to work straightaway.
Moving Day (also known as Gypsy Day) is coming up – is it still going ahead and will there be any addition restrictions in place?
The Ministry for Primary Industries, on advice from the Ministry of Health and the Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment, has determined that Moving Day can proceed under any alert level. This farm practice is essential to the running of the country’s dairy industry – an essential service in the COVID-19 crisis.
Moving Day activities will be restricted to those absolutely necessary to enable the movement of people, and, where relevant, livestock, chattels and farm equipment. This is to make sure dairy farmers and workers have safe and suitable housing and protect the welfare of their animals.
What are my obligations when travelling from one job to another?
Refer to the Ministry of Transport (MoT) for information about how to travel safely during this lockdown.
Carriers will also have their own restrictions. If you are not going to be travelling by private vehicle with only people from your ‘bubble’, then we strongly recommend you call the transport provider directly to understand what additional control measures may apply.
In addition to ensuring you maintain physical distancing, you’ll likely need, at a minimum, to carry identification on you at all times and some form of documentation confirming you are an essential worker and your travel is required for the purposes of carrying out essential work.
Do I need to keep information on me while I am travelling and if so, what kind of information should I keep?
You may be stopped by the police or carriers, such as Air New Zealand, or Cook Strait ferries, and asked questions about the purpose of your travel and the route you have chosen. You should be prepared to answer questions and provide evidence that you are an essential worker and that the route you have chosen is the most direct route possible, or the one that best mitigates your risk of contracting COVID-19. You should carry some form of identification, such as a letter from your employer and your passport, with you at all times to verify you are an essential worker.
You may get pulled over by the police if you are travelling. Police will take a reasonable approach and endeavour to confirm the role of anyone they speak to, for example by asking for a:
- letter of authorisation on company letterhead, or
- company identification card, or
- business card with company logo, or
- copy of an email from a company manager.
If they have doubts about any identification produced, police officers have been directed to make enquiries by telephone to confirm identification.
What do I do if I can’t travel safely?
If you can’t travel safely then you need to stay where you are. Unless you can travel in a way that ensures both you and others around you are safe, then you should not be moving around.
After you arrive
What kind of information do I need to provide to my new employer when I arrive?
Both you and your employer share the responsibility to ensure your workplace is healthy and safe. You should ensure you give your new employer all the information reasonably necessary to ensure they are able to manage health and safety at the site, including whether there were any incidents during your recent travel that may have exposed you or others to risk of COVID-19 transmission. If in doubt, speak up.
Additional information on managing COVID-19 in the workplace can be found on Worksafe’s website.
What kind of information can I expect from my employer?
You can expect a health and safety plan that clearly explains how your employer will manage their health and safety risks while you are at work.
I am an employer of a worker, what kind of information should I be requiring from them upon their arrival?
You should be double checking how the employee arrived and asking them questions to clarify whether they stayed in their ‘bubble’ for the entire journey. You should also be providing your employee with all the information reasonably necessary to ensure they are able to work safely with no risk of COVID-19 transmission during the Alert Level 4 lockdown.
I am an employer with existing workers but am bringing in new workers for the busy period – can they join ‘bubbles’ or do I need to keep them separate?
Your workers should stay in their own bubbles. It is your responsibility as a business owner to:
- minimise, or eliminate if possible, physical interactions amongst staff, and with and between customers,
- ensure appropriate health, hygiene and safety measures are in place, and
- restrict activity to only what is essential during the Alert 4 period.
It is your responsibility to decide how to best do this. We would expect practices to include the likes of:
- Limiting, or eliminating, staff interaction e.g. through physical distancing, split shifts, staggered meal breaks, and flexible working arrangements.
- Limiting, or eliminating, interaction with and between customers e.g. through online or phone orders, contactless delivery, or managed entry (while also avoiding crowding outside), and physical distancing both inside and outside the premises.
- Hygiene basics of hand washing and using sanitisers.
- Frequent cleaning of premises, especially counters and eftpos terminals, and other high-touch surfaces (cleaning advice is available on the Ministry of Health website).
- Protective equipment for staff as appropriate.
What if I, or a member of my bubble, feel unwell when we arrive at the destination?
If you or a member of your bubble are feeling unwell with symptoms such as a fever, cough or shortness of breath, seek help by calling a GP (doctor) or call Healthline, for free, on 0800 358 5453.
If you have a confirmed COVID-19 case or symptoms, or if you’re feeling unwell, you must self-isolate and recover to stop the spread.
Do not leave the house to pick up essential supplies or go for a walk. Ask someone else to pick up essential supplies on your behalf to make sure you have everything you need. They must leave this at the door and not come inside.
Others in your bubble should avoid close contact with the unwell person, and maintain high levels of personal hygiene through regular cleaning and thorough hand-washing.
Comprehensive health advice for the general public is available at the Ministry of Health website
Can food carry Covid-19?
There is no evidence of Covid-19 being carried in food. However, all the usual food safety measures to prevent foodborne illness, including washing hands, apply.
Are home kill operators essential services?
Yes, home kill operators can operate with social distancing and no retail sales to the public.
Is recreational fishing allowed?
We strongly discourage you to go fishing. Coastguard New Zealand are asking you to stay off the water to avoid putting themselves, others or emergency services in harm’s way. We all need to make sure that emergency services are available to help those in the greatest need.
We would like to remind people that the rules to ensure sustainability are still in place and our fishery officers are still patrolling throughout New Zealand to protect our fisheries. They will do this in a way that keeps themselves and others safe. You can call us on 0800 4 POACHER (0800 476 224) if you see anyone breaking the fishing rules.
Can I visit my horses?
Yes. Travel to care for your animals, including horses, is allowed. This includes providing your animals with food, water and any other aspect that you need to provide to meet your responsibilities under the Animal Welfare Act and relevant codes of welfare.
If your horse can be cared for by the owner of the stables or grazing facility at which your horse is based, then you should stay at home. Their welfare is not at risk, and limiting people movement is the priority.
If you do leave your house to attend to your horse, take the necessary health measures, and comply with any region-specific travel measures. Travel in your private vehicle, with other members of your self-isolation group (or ‘social bubble’) only.
You should also use your own grooming kit, tack and other equipment to reduce the risk of spreading the virus. Avoid sharing equipment with people outside of your self-isolation group.
For horses grazed at a facility where feed or equipment may be stored centrally, take care to use good hygiene practices around door handles and other points which many owners may touch.
Can I ride my horse locally or outside my property?
If you are caring for your horse directly, you may ride your horse within the boundaries of the property on which it’s kept. Do not transport your horse by float to ride somewhere else.
If your horse is based at a grazing facility or stables and the owner of the facility is caring for your horse while we are at Alert Level 4, stay at home.
Can I walk my dog while NZ is under COVID-19 restrictions?
Yes, you can continue to walk your dog under any of the COVID-19 Alert Levels, but check on any current local restrictions before you do so.
If someone in the household has COVID-19, then any dogs in the household should not be exercised off the property.
Can a farrier travel to my property to treat my horse?
The New Zealand Farriers Association have advised their farriers that the majority of their work can be postponed during the lockdown without compromising animal health. However if the treatment is considered essential to maintain the welfare of the animal during the lockdown period then a farrier should be called.
Can dogs or cats spread Covid-19?
Currently, there is no evidence that pets can spread COVID-19. However, it’s good practice to wash your hands before and after interacting with animals.
If your animals need treatment, contact your veterinary clinic.
Is MPI is still answering the 0800 00 83 33 line to take complaints regarding animal welfare?
Yes, we will have Animal Welfare inspectors on duty throughout New Zealand during the Alert Level 4 period and beyond. Animal Welfare Inspectors will respond to welfare complaints of a more serious nature to ensure animals are not left to suffer.