COVID-19 update for horticulture

COVID-19 update for horticulture image

Table of contents:

-   HortNZ updates
-   Who to contact at HortNZ
-   Key links and resources

-   Essential Services Information
-   RSE workers
-   Government Support
-   Labour and Jobs
-   Food Safety
-   Staying well


HortNZ Updates

HortNZ is closely monitoring the COVID-19 coronavirus situation and its potential impact on the horticulture industry. The situation is constantly evolving. Please keep an eye on the HortNZ newsletter as well as this webpage. What follows are our latest updates.

Click here to signup to the HortNZ newsletter. 

Click here to view the newsletter archive.


Who to contact at HortNZ

HortNZ has set itself up in the following way in response to COVID-19.  Please call or email the person/s noted below if you have questions or concerns that fall into their areas. 

Click here to view HortNZ's COVID-19 response contact list.



Key links and resources

The New Zealand Government has released an official website called Unite Against Covid-19. The website has everything you need to know about COVID-19 in one place. 

Click here to access the government’s COVID-19 website,

Crop specific information:

Apple and/or pear growers – click here
Kiwifruit growers – click here
Potato growers – click here
Avocado growers – click here

Packhouse resources:

Click here to view a sample of what you could adapt for your operations.  Mr Apple is thanked for allowing us to use their information.
Click here to view COVID-19 posters, translations and information sheets on the website.
Click here for translated information for Pacific workers, and click here for additional languages.
For Tongan workers, click here for a translated information sheet.
For Samoan workers, click here for a translated information sheet.

Essential Services:
Click here to download the Essential Services Employee Movement Declaration form

RSE and Visa information:
Click here to go to Immigration New Zealand.
 They have set up a webpage that is being updated specifically for RSE workers and employers. There is also information on visas and border closures.

Information for business:
WorkSafe – What’s WorkSafe’s approach
Business.govt – Information for businesses
NZTE – Information for exporters

Click here to go to Ministry of Health COVID-19 information.
This includes symptoms and how to identify COVID-19, self-isolation, signs for workplaces in various languages, and more.

Identifying symptoms:
Click here to view a chart to help identify COVID-19 from a cold or the flu. 



 Essential Services Information

Guidance for registering as an essential service 

Horticulture, the production and harvest of fruit and vegetables, as well as necessary associated services, are considered as essential services for COVID-19 Alert Level 4. All orchards, farms, packhouses, cool stores and export entities are essential services. You can continue to operate, but there will be strict rules in place that allow you to continue to do so.

To continue to operate, all operations and contractors with more than 5 people at a site must register with MPI, click here to register.

Click here to view the guidelines that HortNZ has compiled some guidelines to help growers and packhouses register. 


MPI Responses to grower questions

MPI has responded to key grower questions and concerns, such as the definition of a horticulture essential service, the 2m distancing rule, growers and workers who are over 70, and independent fruit and vegetable retailers. 

Click here to view the questions and answers from 11am 27 March.

Click here to view the questions and answers 5pm 27 March.


NZ Police

The NZ Police has issued the recommendation that people working in essential services should carry with them their driver's licence and a letter that declares who you work for, where you are travelling, as well as employer information.

Click here to download the essential service employee movement declaration form.


Advice from MBIE on security services during the lockdown 

MBIE has updated its list of essential services to include security. 

While there is no a formal accreditation for essential businesses or their employees, growers and packhouse operators can, if they wish, provide a letter to security staff/contractors detailing the specific essential function they are undertaking with reference to horticulture as an essential service - click here to download template.

MPI does not consider security services to be part of the primary sector so there is no need for them to register using the MPI Safe Practices online registration form. However, in all cases, these businesses should:

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


RSE workers

Where an RSE visa expires before 2 April, contact the RSE unit or liaison manager and an interim visa will be issued. 

Where an RSE visa expires between 2 April and 9 July, these will be automatically extended to 25 September 2020. Confirmation of extensions will be emailed to all visa holders.

For more information, go here:

Flexibility around RSE worker movement is still being worked on.  There is agreement by the government that there needs to be flexibility so that is not the issue.

For more information, go here:


Government Support 

The government has put together financial support packages to help businesses through these uncertain times.

How to apply for financial help and where to get financial advice:

Income support – outlines what’s available for workers/beneficiaries.

Wage subsidies - updated 28 March - outlines what's available for businesses, which was changed by the Government on 27 March.  

Business cashflow and tax – outlines support such as depreciation on commercial and industrial buildings; deductions for low value assets; increase in the threshold for small businesses having to pay provisional tax; and waiving interest and penalties on late tax payments for businesses affected by COVID-19. 


Labour and Jobs

To mitigate the effects of potential labour shortages, HortNZ is continuing to work with the Chairs of the Regional Labour Groups, MSD and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) to assess labour requirements in horticulture across the regions.

The aim is to fill gaps with people who are not currently in work in other industries like forestry, who have transferable skills relevant to horticulture. 

Employers should list their vacancies on Work the Seasons (


Food Safety

New Zealand Food Safety Science and Research Centre (NZFSSRC) has reviewed all available information on foodborne transmission of COVID-19, and has concluded that there is no evidence that COVID-19 can be transmitted by food or food packaging.  Click here to view the findings.  

Various organisations are reminding the public of the proven health benefits of eating fresh fruit and vegetables.



Certification during COVID-19 lockdown 

  • Registration and renewal processes as normal, but growers urged to complete forms and payments online during lockdown (post limited, and cheques cannot be processed)
  • Food Safety audits are considered ‘essential service’
  • NZGAP and GLOBALG.A.P. audits from AsureQuality and SGS are continuing as scheduled with social distancing requirements in place
  • Off-site and remote audit capabilities being fast-tracked for development and implementation
  • GLOBALG.A.P. certification may be extended beyond the 12 months, for a maximum period of 6 months.
  • NZGAP certification may be extended by up to 5 months

Key contacts:

Click here for more information on NZGAP and GLOBALG.A.P. during Alert Level 4.


Staying well 

These are uncertain times for all New Zealanders.  It is important to stay connected and talk about how things are going, and how you and the people around you are feeling.

The Mental Health Foundation has some practical advice about this, click here to view.  


Where to get help with how you or others are feeling 

If you are worried about your or someone else's mental health, the best place to get help is your GP or local mental health provider. However, if you or someone else is in danger or endangering others, call the Police immediately on 111.

If you feel you are not coping, it is important to talk with a health professional. For support with grief, anxiety, distress or mental wellbeing, you can call or text 1737 – free, anytime, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week – to talk with a trained counsellor.  

Other options include: 

RURAL SUPPORT: 0800 787 254

LIFELINE: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7)

SUICIDE CRISIS HELPLINE: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)

YOUTHLINE: 0800 376 633

KIDSLINE: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)

WHATSUP: 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm)

DEPRESSION.ORG.NZ: 0800 111 757 text 4202



This webpage was created on 27 March to better structure the content on it and updated on 28 March. It replaces the previous version of the webpage, which can be viewed here.