Q&A on registering and operating as an "essential business"

The Government’s criteria for operating as an “Essential business” have been developed at speed, and will continue to be developed over the coming days and weeks.   

The Government is trusting our industry to adhere to the key principles they have set out and make reasonable decisions until clear guidance can be clarified. 

The following Q&A will be frequently updated as more information becomes available.  Please send your questions to [email protected]  

Q: What do I need to know?

The Government has only one goal: stopping the virus.  If, to achieve that, businesses have to close, then the Government accepts that as an unfortunate, but necessary consequence.   

As a result, the Government expects essential businesses to do everything within their power to guarantee the virus will not be spread amongst their workers or the community.   

If they cannot do that, they must close. 

Q: What is an “essential business”?

“Essential businesses”, and those that support them, can continue to provide the necessities of life for everyone in New Zealand under Alert Level 4.

Essential businesses are defined to include:

  • Any entity involved in the packaging, production and processing of food and beverage products, whether for domestic consumption or export; and
  • Any entity involved in relevant support services, such as food safety and verification, inspection or associated laboratory services, food safety and biosecurity functions.

This covers grape production and winemaking. Remaining open as an essential business is an absolute privilege. The Government has been clear that essential businesses can only remain open if they can guarantee that they have in place measures to appropriately manage the risk to workers and the community. NZW supports that strict standard.

Q: How do I register with Government as an essential business?

If you are an essential business you need to register UNLESS: 

  • there are 5 or fewer people (including the owner) working at each business site, and 
  • social distancing of at least 2 metres between staff at each business site can be achieved—including travelling, to and from work. Production chains must achieve these limits of separation. 

If you do not meet those two criteria you need to register by completing the following form by 5:00pm on Friday 27 March 2020 here. 

If you are in any doubt as to whether you meet the criteria, fill in the form.  

Until you have registered, you may keep operating and are expected to already have appropriate health procedures in place. 

Q: What kinds of health measures do I need to have in place?

The following Best Practice Guide looks at each of the questions asked by MPI in the registration form and indicates the kinds of measures that NZW anticipates would satisfy those expectations.

The Best Practice Guide is here: https://www.nzwine.com/media/15402/guidelines-for-winegrowers-operating-as-an-essential-business-24-march-2020.pdf

Q: Can I continue to operate before registering as an essential business?  

Yes.  If you are an essential business you must register by 5:00pm on 27 March 2020.  If in good faith you have implemented appropriate health measures to protect staff and the community from spread of COVID-19, you may continue to operate until then.

Q: Where can I get help with the registration process?

Contact MPI at 0800 00 83 33 or [email protected] for further details on registering or the registration process.

Q: There are several companies/entities within my business group.  Do they each need to register as an essential business?  

The registration form asks for your NZBN or other identifying code (eg WSMP number).  Some of these forms of ID apply to corporate groups. 

We expect that entities within a single group of businesses, all of which would meet the “essential business” criteria, and all of which have the same policies/ approaches for managing the COVID-19 risk, ought to be able to apply as a single group. More information on this should be available from the Government shortly.  Please check back. 

Q: Are my essential suppliers allowed to remain open?

If you are operating as an essential business, then essential suppliers in your supply chain are also considered essential.  The precise boundaries of this are still being developed.  

You should prepare contingency plans in the event that some or all of your suppliers are unavailable while New Zealand is at Alert Level 4.  

We are working with MPI to develop more guidance as to what is, and is not, covered within the grape and wine supply chain.  We have submitted to MPI that the critical supply chain ought to include essential activities within these categories: 

  1. Staff, labour and support for staff
  2. Equipment and engineering support
  3. Consumables/dry goods
  4. Transport and logistics 
  5. Waste management
  6. Cleaning products and services
  7. Utilities 
  8. Other

Note that activities in the supply chain that could be carried out after the 4-week period of Alert Level 4 are not considered essential parts of the supply chain. 

Q: What if I can only find workers who need to travel to my region?

The Government has instructed people to stay at home. This generally precludes travel.  Preliminary discussions with MPI indicate that if essential businesses really do need essential workers to travel, then that may be able to be permitted - but more work to agree the parameters of any such exemption will be required.

We recommend that as much as possible people ‘get into position’ for the next four weeks before level 4 starts on Thursday 26 March.   

At Alert Level 4, air transport will only be available for people undertaking essential services.  

Driving in private vehicles is permitted (only with those you are “staying at home” withand only to destinations where you can maintain your 2m separation with others).  

Q: Am I required to remain open as an essential business at Alert Level 4?  

No. Essential businesses may remain open but are not obliged to do so. If you do not wish to open, or do not believe that you can do so in a way that appropriately manages the risk involved, then you should close.  

If you do choose to close your business, then this information government financial support may be useful.  

Q: Can wineries continue to sell wine online using courier delivery? 

We are awaiting clarification on this from the Government. 

If Government confirms that you are able to do so, you will still be required to have a remote seller endorsement on your off-licence. If you have any queries about your licensing for alcohol sales, please contact Sarah Wilson 027 700 6008 or email [email protected]  

Cellar doors, restaurants etc must close. 

Q: Can wineries continue to fulfil orders for export?  

Yes. We have asked MPI to temporarily amend the Wine Export Certification System so that wine does not have to be sent submitted to WECS for sensory evaluation.

We hope to send Wine e-Cert users an email about this very shortly.  Please do not send any wine samples to WECS.  For any questions, contact [email protected].  

Q: Can liquor stores/off-licences continue to operate? (other than supermarkets)  

We are awaiting clarification on this from the Government. 

Q: Can my staff work if they are over 70 or in another high risk group? 

Workers in these high risk groups are required to stay home.

If possible, you can make arrangements for them to work remotely, but the Government guidance is that at Alert Level 4 they should remain home as much as possible.  

You should also check in with your staff whether they have any underlying health conditions that put them at higher risk, or whether they have any high risk/vulnerable family members at home who they need to care for. In either situation, these workers should stay home.  

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