Irrigation New Zealand

Media Statement – for immediate release

24 March 2020

Dear Irrigation Community, 

As you will by now be aware the Government has announced New Zealand has moved to COVID-19 alert level three and moving to level four.

At the time of the announcement, the Prime Minister stated:
“Essential services will remain open, such as supermarkets, banks, GPs, pharmacies, service stations, couriers and other important frontline service provider…workplaces should have everyone working from home. Essential services will stay open at every level but must put in place alternative ways of working including physical distancing of staff of two metres.”We have received lots of questions from members as to whether the irrigation service sector is an “essential service.”

Yesterday I attended an online meeting held by Director-General of MPI Ray Smith, and attended by Minister Hon Damien O’Connor.

The Minister confirmed that the food and beverage production and processing sectors and supporting industries involved in sustaining the supply chain are essential services. At this stage, it means that service industries such as our own, where they provide essential services to the food production sector (including farmers), can continue to operate. But this only applies to essential work. Preventing the spread of the virus must be everyone’s top priority, and this means absolutely limiting the movement of people as much as possible.

To find out more information about essential services, please visit the COVID-19 website at:

The essential services list includes primary industries, including food and beverage production and processing:

  • 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)

All such businesses will be required to register with MPI and ensure that they have put in place processes to keep their workers safe and well. This will include ensuring workers always stay at least two metres apart. Further details around the registration process will be available today (24 March). We will provide an update on the registration process as it comes to hand.

Preventing the spread of the virus through limiting people’s movements and contact with others must be everyone’s number one priority.  The Director-General of MPI has advised that businesses must ask:

How do my processes protect workers and the public by reducing the potential spread of COVID-19?


  • How are you ensuring that workers and others at work are observing social distancing to and from work, during work and during rest breaks?
  • What personal hygiene steps have you put in place for workers to reduce the likelihood of virus spread at work?
  • What existing, or additional personal protective equipment could you introduce that would reduce the likelihood of virus spread at work?
  • What steps are you taking to limit access to your plants apart from essential workers?
  • How are you isolating staff, or parts of your processing plants, so that virus spread would be contained should it occur?
  • What arrangements have you put in place for staff to report any illness and remove themselves from work?
  • What arrangement have you put in place for staff to report any suspected exposure to COVID-19?
  • What actions would you take should a staff member be suspected of or confirmed as having COVID-19?
  • How do you ensure that staff at particular risk of COVID-19 identify themselves and are isolated from work?
  • How will you ensure that your workers observe ‘stay at home’ rules at the conclusion of each working day?

We understand that this is a challenging time for everyone and we have received questions from our sector as to what are essential services. As further information becomes available from the Government, we will pass this on as quickly as we are able.

We wish everyone to stay safe and well and look out for each other.

Stay safe,

Elizabeth Soal

IrrigationNZ CEO