Is my business an essential service?

Essential vs non essential

Under COVID-19 Alert Level 4, all New Zealanders not working in essential services must stay at home.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment has stated that essential services are those that provide for the necessities of life.

This means food, medicine, healthcare, energy, fuel, waste-removal, internet and financial support will continue to be available. This also includes entities in their supply chains While these essential services will continue working, they must do so in a way that limits or eliminates the risk of spreading COVID-19.

Where essential services workers are required to leave home to work, the business must:

  1. Minimise personal interactions, amongst staff and with customers; and
  2. Ensure all appropriate health, hygiene and safety measures are in place.

This could be achieved by:

  • Working from home where possible;
  • Limiting staff interaction through personal distancing and split shifts;
  • Limiting interaction with and between customers through online / phone orders, contactless delivery and/or managed or staged entry;
  • Frequent cleaning of all surfaces, particularly counters and EFTPOS terminals;
  • Frequent hand washing and sanitisers.

The Government has identified 15 sectors considered to be essential services the corresponding lead agency. This list will evolve over time, however the list of essential services as set out at the time of publication is set out below:


Entities providing essential services (including their supply chains)


Lead agency: Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment

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


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
  • Any entity involved in building and construction required immediately to maintain human health and safety at home or work
  • Any entity that performs or is involved in building and resource consenting necessary for the above purposes

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 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.

Financial services

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

  • Banks, insurers and other financial institutions, including any entity that contracts or provides services to them (eg secure money delivery services)
  • Securities registries
  • NZX


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)
  • 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

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

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
  • 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, 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, to be specified jointly by the Ministry of Social Development and Oranga Tamariki

Transport and logistics

Lead agency: Ministry of Transport

  • 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 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)
  • Any small passenger service vehicle driver (who holds the relevant licence)
  • Any entity providing services to keep vehicles operational for essential work purposes (eg vehicle testing, mechanics, tyre services)

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, waste water (eg sanitation), waste (eg rubbish collection), fuel, telecommunication services, and any entity that is contracted by these entities
  • News (including news production) and broadcast media
  • Internet service providers
  • Any entity that provides maintenance and repair services for utilities and communications, including supply chains
  • Any entity supplying services to an essential workplaces that are required for the safe operation of that workplace (e.g. cleaning, security services)

We have seen some confusion regarding whether individual businesses are classified as essential services. The Government has provided the following further details regarding essential services:

  • Dairies to stay open, with “one-in one-out” rule
  • Food delivery prohibited, except meals on wheels and delivery of food not pre-cooked
  • Liquor stores closed, unless within a Licensing Trust Area and with “one-in one-out” rule
  • Self-service laundries can stay open, two-metre physical distancing to be enforced
  • Retirement villages included as an essential service
  • The Warehouse to close stores to the public
  • Bunnings, Placemakers, Mitre 10 and other retailers essential to the supply chain for building and construction can stay open to trade customers for essential purposes only
  • The Tiwai Point smelter exempt from closure
  • NZ Steel shut down in a way that allows for production to recommence easily
  • Pulp and paper plants to shut down non-essential elements in a way that allows for production to recommence easily while maintaining essential production
  • Methanex to remain in production, but at a scale consistent with stability of gas supply.

The Government has advised that if a business is unsure whether it provides essential products or services, it should shut its premises. Any queries regarding essential services can be made to MBIE at 0508 377 388 or

The Government has also indicated that there will be a team at MPI available to answer queries regarding essential services related to Primary Industries. At the time of publication this number was yet to be released.

We expect that the Government will provide further information and guidance on essential services in the coming days.

To find out more information about COVID-19 go to the official COVID-19 website here.

For more information on COVID-19 and its impact on your organisation, please contact our Employment Team (Troy WanoRebecca Eaton and Rochelle Farmer) on 06 768 3721.