Essential businesses, services, and support services in Alert Level 4

Essential primary sector businesses, services and support services need to register for safe practice during COVID-19 Alert Level 4.

Essential business

For primary industries, if your business falls under one 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.
  • commercial fishers are an essential service and will continue operating.

Essential business - COVID-19

Support services and inputs that may be considered essential 

MPI wants to help ensure the supply of critical goods and services to food and beverage, packaging, production, and processing businesses during the Level 4 Alert. However, businesses should only be operating if:

  • those goods and services are essential during the Level 4 Alert
  • are vital to the ongoing operation of the primary industry essential service (for example, if failing to provide the goods or services now would cause significant disruption in the weeks after the Level 4 Alert).

Support services and inputs that may be considered essential include:

  • livestock and primary produce transporters
  • veterinary service providers
  • feed or fodder transporters
  • feed, supplement, and agri-chemical manufacturers, processers, suppliers, and stores
  • manufacturers and distributors of animal medicines
  • pet shops and services (for delivery only, or to care for animals kept in store)
  • marine farming hatcheries, and suppliers of gear used in marine farms and fishing (such as ropes, nets, float manufacture, installation, and maintenance to maintain marine farm crop lines)
  • animal control
  • workers caring for animals in containment
  • rural contractors who are providing essential services that cannot be deferred over the next 4 weeks, especially for animal welfare purposes (such as artificial insemination technicians, stock agents managing and directing stock movements, winter re-grassing for feed, fertiliser supply and application, shearing where necessary for animal welfare)
  • fertiliser manufacture and distribution.

Businesses who supply such critical goods or services should already be registered with us. Businesses that have registered should keep operating and are expected to already have health procedures in place.

Employers must protect the safety of their staff and the public. If that cannot be achieved then operations should close for the duration of the Level 4 Alert.

Operators who provide occasional goods and services to the sector (such as a mechanic) do not have to register with MPI and should only be used by essential services where absolutely critical.

Wool and forestry operators and businesses are not considered essential services during a Level 4 Alert unless they are providing critical goods or services into other essential services (such as packaging or power generation).

Registration of primary industry essential services and support services

MPI needs assurances from industries and businesses that their processes protect workers and the public by limiting interactions and reducing the potential spread of COVID-19. This includes businesses that supply essential support to a primary industries essential service. Without these assurances, businesses will not be able to operate.

The online registration form has now closed. However, if you are an essential service to the primary industries, or a supplier to an essential service you can email us at

If you are not an essential service or support service, or if we have advised you not to operate, you should already be closed.

Criteria considered for registration

  • Do you have 5 or fewer people (including the owner) working at each business site?
  • Can you achieve social distancing measures between staff in your workplace, including travelling to and from work?
    • If you answer YES to both of those questions, then you do not need to be registered.
    • If you answered NO to either of these questions, you should be registered.

Next steps for registered businesses or support services

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.

COVID-19 advice for workplaces

Businesses that 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.  

More information

Primary sector businesses can contact MPI at 0800 00 83 33 or for further information on the register or verification process.

What can I do if I see a non-essential primary sector business, service or support service continuing to operate?

You can contact MPI on 0800 00 83 33.

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