Essential businesses

Essential businesses, and those that support them, will continue to provide the necessities of life for everyone in New Zealand during Alert Level 4. This means food, medicine, healthcare, energy, fuel, waste-removal, internet and financial support will continue to be available.

Essential businesses during Alert Level 4

Alert Level 4 means New Zealanders not working in essential services must stay at home and stop all physical interactions with others outside of your household.

Orders under section 70(1) of the Health Act 1956 define the term "essential businesses" as businesses that are essential to the provision of life and those businesses that support them as described on this website. This section describes what are essential businesses for the purpose of the Health Orders made under Section 70(1) of the Health Act 1956 in relation to COVID-19. 

Information for business owners and employees

If you’re unsure whether your business provides essential services, you should close. We need as many businesses as possible to close to slow the spread of the virus.

If your business is considered essential, you must operate in a way that minimises the risk of COVID-19 transmission. Businesses should:

  • minimise, or eliminate if possible, physical interactions among staff and with and between customers
  • ensure appropriate health, hygiene and safety measures are in place
  • restrict activity to only what is essential during the Alert Level 4 period.

These practices may include:

  • working from home as far as possible
  • limiting, or eliminating if possible, physical interaction between staff, eg through physical distancing, split shifts, staggered meal breaks and flexible working arrangements
  • limiting, or eliminating if possible, physical interaction with and between customers, eg 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 handwashing and sanitisers
  • frequent cleaning of premises, especially counters and EFTPOS terminals, and other high-touch surfaces
  • protective equipment for staff as appropriate.

If you are unsure if you can operate in a manner that minimises the risk of transmission of COVID-19, you should close while you put in place appropriate measures.

Employment guidance for businesses and workers(external link)

Health and safety guidance work essential workplaces(external link)

What should non-essential businesses do?

Non-essential businesses must now close their premises. All bars, restaurants, cafes, gyms, cinemas, pools, museums, libraries, playgrounds and any other place where the public congregate must close their face-to-face functions.

If you are a business or worker in a non-essential business, you may still work – as long as this is from home. If you cannot work remotely, you must stay home.

We need your support to protect New Zealand and slow the spread of COVID-19.

Enforcement measures may be used to ensure everyone acts together, now.

Businesses by sector that are essential

The list below provides a sector-level overview of the types of business and functions that are able to remain open during Alert Level 4, including any critical suppliers in their supply chains, eg a firm repairing IT and data infrastructure for an essential service can remain in operation. 

If you have any queries about what an essential service is and if it applies to your business sector, you can call 0800 22 66 57 or email for advice regarding your specific business. 

For questions related to primary industries, including food and beverage production and processing, email or call 0800 00 83 33.

This contents of this page will evolve over time.

The page was last updated at 4pm, 8 April 2020.

Alert Level 4 means New Zealanders not working in essential services must stay at home and stop all physical interactions with others outside of your household.

Essential services lists the additional decisions made about essential services during Alert Level 4


Lead agency: Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment

  • Any entity that provides accommodation services for essential workers, isolation/quarantine, and emergency housing.
  • Retirement villages.
  • Backpackers accommodation.

See Essential services for more information about backpackers accommodation


Lead agency: Customs New Zealand

  • Customs New Zealand, Immigration New Zealand and the Ministry for Primary Industries.

Building and construction

Lead agency: Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment 

  • Any entity involved in building and construction related to essential services and critical infrastructure, including those in the supply and support chain.
  • Any entity involved in any work required to address immediate health or life safety risks, or to prevent serious environmental harm, and relevant essential supply chain elements.
  • Any entity with statutory responsibilities or that is involved in building and resource consenting necessary for the above purposes.

Updated information from the Construction sector can be found on the Building Performance website – this includes a comprehensive list of FAQs(external link)

Courts, tribunals and the justice system

Lead agency: Ministry of Justice 

  • Courts of New Zealand, tribunals.
  • Critical Crown entities (eg Electoral Commission).


Lead agency: Ministry of Education 

At Alert Level 4:

  • Any entity or individual determined by the Secretary for Education as required to provide distance or online learning (eg printers, devices, IT).

At Alert Level 3 only:

  • Any person employed or contracted as teaching, nursery and childcare staff, including specialist education professionals and others who provide support (eg to disabled children).
  • Any person employed by or contracted to an educational facility.
  • Any entity supplying educational facilities or educational materials (eg printers).

Fast-moving consumer goods 

Lead agency: Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment 

  • Any entity involved in the supply, delivery, distribution and sale of food, beverage and other key consumer goods essential for maintaining the wellbeing of people.

See Essential services for more information about food

Financial services 

Lead agencies: Financial Markets Authority and Reserve Bank of New Zealand 

  • Any entity that operates consumer and business financial services, financial services infrastructure including banking services, a stock exchange, broking services, payment and settlement systems, funds management including KiwiSaver, insurance services, financial advice, and support services such as administrators, supervisors and custodians.

Guidance on essential financial services is available on the Reserve Bank website(external link)


Lead agency: Ministry of Health 

  • District Health Boards (and all of their facilities), PHARMAC, New Zealand Blood Service, Health Promotion Agency, Health Quality and Safety Commission.
  • Any person employed or contracted as a doctor, nurse, midwife, pharmacist, paramedic, medical laboratory scientists, kaiāwhina workers, social workers, aged care and community workers, and caregivers more generally.
  • Hospitals, primary care clinics, pharmacies, medical laboratories, care facilities (eg rest homes).
  • Emergency dental and optometry care services.
  • Any entity providing ambulance services.
  • Any entity involved with the deceased/tūpāpaku (eg funeral homes, crematories, cemeteries).
  • Any entity producing health sector equipment, medicines and PPE.

Guidance on essential services in the health and disability system is available on the Ministry of Health website(external link) 

Local and national government 

Lead agencies: Department of Internal Affairs (local government) and State Services Commission (national government) 

  • Any entity involved in COVID-19 response, enforcement, planning or logistics or that has civil defence/emergency management functions (including any entity that supplies services for these purposes).
  • Key public services. 

Foreign government 

Lead agency: Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade 

  • Maintaining critical operations at foreign missions based in New Zealand. 

Primary industries, including food and beverage production and processing 

Lead agency: Ministry for Primary Industries 

  • 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, food safety and biosecurity functions.
  • Any entity providing veterinary services.
  • Any entity whose closure would jeopardise the maintenance of animal health or welfare standards (including the short-term survival of a species). 

Public safety and national security 

Lead agency: National Emergency Management Agency 

  • The Department of Corrections, Fire and Emergency New Zealand, Ministry of Defence, Ministry of Justice, New Zealand Defence Force, New Zealand Police, New Zealand Security Intelligence Service, Government Communications Security Bureau, and Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.
  • Courts of New Zealand.
  • Any person employed or contracted in a public safety or national security role. 


Lead agency: Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment 

  • ESR, GNS, GeoNet, NIWA, MetService.
  • Any entity (including research organisations) involved in COVID-19 response.
  • Any entity (including research organisations) involved in hazard monitoring and resilience.
  • Any entity (including research organisations) involved in diagnostics for essential services like biosecurity or public health.
  • Laboratories and Physical Containment level 3 (PC3) facilities that could provide essential services and products that could be used to respond to COVID-19.
  • Other significant research facilities including animal facilities, clinical trials and infrastructure that requires constant attention (eg samples, collections and storage facilities) that are important to New Zealand. 

Social services 

Lead Agency: Ministry of Social Development/Oranga Tamariki

  • Those entities, including non-government organisations, that provide welfare and social services to meet immediate needs, in the following categories:
    • Where the service is the only way for people to access food and other goods they need to live day-to-day.
    • A social service that provides and supports a place for someone to live.
    • A social service that supports disabled people to maintain critical wellbeing.
    • Crisis support for people who are unsafe.

List of social sector organisations providing essential services on the Ministry of Social Development website(external link) 

Transport and logistics 

Lead agency: Ministry of Transport 

  • Any small passenger service vehicle driver (who holds the relevant licence) such as ride-share or taxi drivers.
  • Any entity providing services to keep vehicles operational for essential work purposes (eg vehicle testing, mechanics, tyre services).
  • Ministry of Transport, New Zealand Customs, New Zealand Transport Agency, Civil Aviation Authority (including Aviation Security Service), Maritime New Zealand (including the Rescue Coordination Centre), Airways NZ, MetService, KiwiRail (including Interislander), and any entity which is contracted by these entities.
  • Any entity that provides, or is contracted to an entity that provides, logistics services, including New Zealand Post and courier services.
  • Any entity providing, or that is contracted by an entity that provides, transport services to the Ministry of Health, a District Health Board, a Medical Officer of Health, or a Controller (as defined in section 4 of the Civil Defence and Emergency Management Act 2002).
  • Any entity which provides services related to the maintenance and ongoing operation of critical infrastructure (eg roads, rail, ports, airports).
  • Any entity which operates or is contracted by an entity listed in Schedule 1 of the Civil Defence and Emergency Management Act 2002, an aerodrome, a passenger and/or freight aviation service, a passenger and/or freight shipping service, a road freight service, a rail freight service, a vehicle recovery service; or a public transport service (under contract with a Regional Council).
  • The delivery of solid fuels (including firewood, pellets and coal) for immediate needs (eg home heating) or fulfilling existing orders is an essential service.

The Ministry of Transport has provided specific advice for the transport sector on their website(external link) 

This may be updated as the response evolves.

Advice from Customs New Zealand on essential and non-essential goods is available on their website(external link)

Utilities and communications, including supply chains 

Lead agency: Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, and Ministry for Culture and Heritage (for broadcasting) 

  • Any entity involved in the production, supply, sale distribution or disposal of electricity, gas, water, wastewater (eg sanitation), waste (eg rubbish collection and recycling), liquid and solid fuel, telecommunication services, and any entity that is contracted by these entities.
  • The delivery of solid fuels (including firewood, pellets and coal) for immediate needs (eg home heating) or fulfilling existing orders, is an essential service.
  • Disposal of waste, including recycling, is an essential service and may continue to operate during Alert level 4.  Individual operators have responsibilities to appropriately meet the health, safety, and security requirements of their staff and customers, and should not operate if they feel they cannot do so.
  • News (including news production) and broadcast media is considered essential. Daily delivery of newspapers is considered essential. Non-daily newspapers for communities that are hard to reach due to physical location and with limited access to digital connectivity, or for non-English language material audiences are considered essential. Non-broadcast news organisations are encouraged to deliver services online wherever possible. Magazines do not provide critical up-to date news information. The physical production, delivery and retail distribution of magazines is not considered an essential service. Magazines are encouraged to deliver services online wherever possible.
  • Security and cleaning of GLAM institutions: All galleries, libraries, archives and museums will remain closed to the public. Essential security and maintenance is permitted.
  • Security is considered an essential service, even if security services are being provided in relation to a premise for a non-essential service.
  • Internet service providers.
  • Any entity that provides maintenance and repair services for utilities and communications, including supply chains.
  • Any entity supplying services to essential workplaces that are required for the safe operation of that workplace (eg cleaning, security services).
  • Commercial cleaners that clean common areas of apartment buildings may also continue to operate, where there is high-traffic (eg lifts, stairwells).

Further guidance is available on the Ministry for Culture and Heritage website(external link) 

Alternative ways of working must be put in place

The entities listed above can continue to operate premises but must put in place alternative ways of working to keep employees safe, including shift-based working, staggered meal breaks, flexible leave arrangements and physical distancing.

Additional decisons made about essential services

Essential services lists the additional decisions made about essential services during Alert Level 4

Essential non-food consumer products

Businesses are able to sell essential non-food consumer products, provided they do so in a way that protects the public and minimises the risk of COVID-19 spreading.

The conditions that businesses must comply with, and details on how to register your business(external link)

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