Last evening I participated in a teleconference hosted by Hon Damien O’Connor and MPI following the announcement that the COVID-19 alert level had been raised to level 3, moving to level 4 in 48 hours.
During this call the Minister announced that food and beverage businesses, including growers, farmers and viticulturalists, would be included in the list of essential services. The industries that support these sectors, such as vegetable seedling and fruit and vine nurseries, may also be included in this group.
Businesses that are essential services can continue to operate at both level 3 and 4, but there will be strict rules and obligations in place.
Other types of nurseries are not defined as essential services, which means that the level 3 and 4 restrictions will apply.
The Minister has emphasised that this allowance is based on trust and businesses in the food and beverage sectors will be required to register with MPI and implement strict protocols to manage the risk associated with COVID-19. They may also be subject to audit, with serious consequences for non-compliance.
There is a strong message that the restrictions in place are intended to save the lives of hundreds, perhaps thousands of New Zealanders. The allowance for food and beverage businesses is only to ensure the supply of essential food.
A registration system will be available in the coming days and NZPPI will work with the nurseries that fall into the category of essential services to implement the requirements.
We will continue to ask that nurseries are able to continue to carry out basic husbandry functions to maintain plants, as plants are vital to the economy and the wellbeing of New Zealanders and will be critical in the recovery phase.
NZ Plant Producers chief executive