COVID-19 update for horticulture - 25 June

COVID-19 update for horticulture - 25 June image

This page was archived on 25 June 2020. For the latest information, click here.

Table of contents:

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

-  Operating safely in the field and packhouse
      -  MPI guidance
      -  Applying for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
      -  Movement declaration - NZ Police
      -  Essential Services Information
      -  Health and Safety
-  RSE workers
      -  Movements of Workers between regions
      -  Visas
      -  Government Support for RSE Workers
      -  Translated Pacific Resources
-  Wellbeing
      -  Food safety
      -  COVID-19 symptoms
      -  Mental health
-  Advice for employers
      -  Government Support
      -  Business advice and support
      -  Wage subsidy
      -  Leave payment
      -  Business cashflow and tax
      -  Employees, voluntarily self-isolation and attending work
      -  NZGAP and GLOBALG.A.P.
-  Advice for employees
      -  Jobs available
      -  Income support


HortNZ Updates

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

Click here to signup to the HortNZ newsletter. 

Click here to view the newsletter archive.

To view all of the resources and updates that HortNZ has created in response to COVID-19, click here.


Who to contact at HortNZ

Please call or email the people noted below if you have questions or concerns that fall into their areas of responsibility, during the COVID-19 response. 

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.

RSE and Visa information:
Click here to go to Immigration New Zealand.
 They have set up a webpage specifically for RSE workers and employers, where 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 for tips on setting up an online delivery store.

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. 

Duty of care:
Click here to read advice on health and safety, and duty of care that HortNZ has assembled.  Updated 31 March 2020 

Donating produce to charity:
Click here to find out how to donate surplus produce to charity through HortNZ. 


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Operating safely in the field and packhouse

MPI guidance

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) has issued guidance for the horticulture industry on operating under Alert Level 4 to:

  1. Prevent the introduction of COVID-19 into the workplace
  2. Prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace
  3. Eliminate COVID-19. 

New Zealand Apples and Pears and New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers Incorporated have worked closely with MPI to produce this guidance. 

Click here to view the guidance on operating under COVID-19.

Click here to view diagram on social distancing and transport


Applying for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

The Ministry of Health is taking applications for PPE – face masks in the first instance – for people working in essential services such as horticulture. 

However, the Ministry of Health is also saying that businesses should ‘continue to engage with their own supply channels as a request to them is not a guarantee of supply’. 

Click here to make an application to the Ministry of Health.

As an industry, horticulture is still in discussions with possible PPE suppliers, however, issues to do with landing product in New Zealand still remain.


Movement declaration - 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.


Essential Services Information

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, export entities are essential services.

To continue to operate you must register with MPI and follow strict measures to mitigate the risk of spreading the COVID-19 coronavirus throughout the community.

As of 2 April, MPI has changed the registration process.  They are now advising people to email them at

For more information, go here:

Click here to view the guidelines that HortNZ has compiled to help growers and packhouses with registration. 


Health and Safety

Learn more about the Health and Safety responsibilities of employers operating essential service businesses during COVID-19 Alert Level 4, and the consequences of not meeting health and safety obligations.

Find out more here.  


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RSE workers

Click here for up-to-date information for RSE workers from Immigration NZ.


Movements of Workers Between Regions

At Alert Level 3, Immigration New Zealand’s Porirua Office remains closed and they are not currently able to process paper-based applications, including Agreements to Recruit (ATR) for Recognised Seasonal Employers (RSE) and Variations of Conditions (VOC) for visa holders. 

Due to the Porirua office remaining closed, Immigration New Zealand has set up a temporary electronic process to be able to assess and decide ATR and VOC applications for RSE employees who are onshore. 

Click here to read the ATR and VOC process including FAQs.

Click here to download the VOC employee data template.

Updated 4 May


Click here to go to the link for the requirements for RSE employee and other employee movements. It is written for RSE workers but applies to all workers. 

In order to obtain an MBIE Authorised letter for employee travel the following is required:

  • A COVID-19 appropriate accommodation plan that meets Ministry of Health guidelines that is approved by the RSE Labour Inspectorate.
    • That includes how the workers will be isolated from other groups, travel as a group “bubble” and the bubble is maintained at the new accommodation.

(Shared accommodation such as backpackers/motels/camps that have non-RSE people staying are not likely to be approved but this can be discussed with the labour inspector.)

  • A COVID-19 appropriate travel plan that meets Ministry of Health guidelines.
    • This should outline how the workers will travel as a “bubble” and maintain that bubble throughout the travel.  Vans, private bus, charter flights are all appropriate.

(It is up to the employer to provide any Protective gear.)

You will then be issued an MBIE Authorisation letter for employee travel for that particular transfer.

The following documents should be carried on the lead person travelling with the employees and be able to be produced if stopped and queried.

  1. The MBIE authorised approval for travel letter
  2. The COVID-19 appropriate travel plan
  3. A travel register identifying all employees travelling
  4. Identification from the business (business card with logo)
  5. Letter from the owner of the business authorising the employee travel



Holders of an RSE Limited Visa with an expiry date of 2 April to 9 July 2020 inclusive who are in New Zealand on 2 April 2020 will have their visas automatically extended to 25 September 2020.

Confirmation of extensions will be emailed to all visa holders. The conditions on the visa at the time of the extension still apply.

RSE employees will require an extension of their Insurance to cover.

On 1 April, Immigration New Zealand released information that clarifies the situation for RSE workers and their employers.  You can read the information here.  


Government Support for RSE Workers

The “Essential Workers Leave Subsidy” allows RSE workers and other Essential workers (such as fisheries workers) to access a wage subsidy of $585.80, if they need to self-isolate or cannot work because of COVID-19 concerns to their health. This replaces the previous leave entitlement.

Further details are provided in the updated Questions & Answers page.

On 6 April, Immigration New Zealand responded to questions that HortNZ put forward on behalf of the industry.  You can these read here. 


Translated Pacific Resources

The government have put together a large amount of COVID-19 resources on the website that has been translated into many different languages. Click here to view these.

The Ministry for Pacific Peoples also has a range of translated material for Pacific workers which you can view here.  

Immigration New Zealand has translated New Zealand’s COVID-19 key resources into Bislama which have been sent to Vanuatu and RSE employers with Ni-Van workers. Pidgeon versions will be available shortly. 

For Tongan workers, click here for a translated information sheet.

For Samoan workers, click here for a translated information sheet.


New Zealand Police have put together videos of key messages in a further three languages: (Papua New Guinea) (Solomon Islands) (Vanuatu)


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Food Safety

New Zealand Food Safety Science and Research Centre (NZFSSRC) and the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) have stated that there is no evidence that COVID-19 can be transmitted by food or food packaging. 

Click here to view the statement from MPI, and click here to view the findings of NZFSSRC.  

NZFSSRC and United Fresh continue to monitor available scientific literature.  You can view United Fresh's 8 April update here.


Identifying COVID-19 Symptoms

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.

Click here to download a chart to help identify COVID-19 from a cold or the flu that can be used in your workplace. 


Mental Health

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.  

The Ministry of Health has launched a mental health promotion campaign Getting Through Together that is focussed on things we can all do to maintain our mental health and wellbeing during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

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.  

Mentemia – Italian for ‘my mind’ - is a free app launched by All Blacks legend Sir John Kirwan to help people with their mental health during the coronavirus pandemic.  The app though is a useful tool long term, providing practical tips and techniques to help you take control of your mental health and wellbeing.

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


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Advice for employers

Government Support

The Government have put together financial support packages and other supporting measures to help businesses through these uncertain times.

HortNZ has collated the following information on each of the support options and will update these documents as information becomes available.

COVID-19 financial support tool
The tool will take you, step by step, through a series of questions to find out what financial help may be available to you. Employers, employees, self-employed and people who have lost their job due to COVID-19 can all use this tool.

Updated 4 May 


Business advice and support

Free specialist support (up to $2000) is being offered for business with 50 fulltime employees or less under the COVID-19 Advisory Fund.  This covers areas such as business continuity planning, finance and cash flow management, HR and staffing issues, etc, and will provide support over the next 12 months.

This is being managed by the Regional Business Partner Network,  Employers and Manufacturers Association (EMA) and the Canterbury Chamber of Employment and Commerce. 

Registration is by online application with a regional provider via RBPN, click here to access.

New helpline for businesses 
There is now a free helpline service for all New Zealand businesses. It can offer:
• specific advice and access to Government-funded business support
• advice on what Alert Level 3 means for your business
• general business advice and access to online resources and webinars
• connections to business advisory services
• HR, employee relations, and health and safety advice.

To find out more call 0800 500 362 (North Island), or 0800 50 50 96 (South Island).
Updated 4 May

The following organisations in your region have additional:


Wage Subsidies

The wage subsidy is to help keep businesses going if they facing revenue reductions because of COVID-19. If you’re an employer, contractor, sole trader or are self-employed you may qualify.

Click here to view more details. Updated 8 June.  


Leave Payments

The Government has announced that a new COVID-19 leave payment scheme that will be available to essential businesses for essential workers from 6 April 2020.

The new payment is intended to support essential workers who have to stay at home to comply with public health guidance, and whose employers are unable to keep paying them.

Essential employers who can financially support their workers with leave requirements or any special paid leave entitlements - without the use of the subsidy - should continue to do so.

Click here for more information about the Essential Workers COVID-19 Leave Payment Scheme.  Updated 4 May.


Business cashflow and tax

Accounting support measures have been created to help with businesses cashflow and taxation. These measures include 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. 

Click here to read the 2-page summary from IRD. Updated 5 May.

Click here to view more details. Updated 8 June.


Employees, voluntarily self-isolation and attending work

HortNZ has compiled government advice to clarify the following themes of questions:

a) employees in an essential horticultural business who want to voluntarily self-isolate.
b) employers who are worried about whether an employee who wants to work, should be coming to work or not. 

Click here to view the document.



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.

Click here for updates from AssureQuality.


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Advice for employees

Jobs available

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, tourism & hospitality, who have transferable skills relevant to horticulture. 

Employers should list their vacancies on Work the Seasons, and anyone looking for seasonal work should check listings on Work the Seasons -


Income Support

As part of the government’s support package, they have extended income support to some key groups.

Click here to view what’s available for workers/beneficiaries.


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