The Mad Butcher chain has confirmed stores will be closed during the COVID-19 lockdown, despite initially claiming it was an essential service.
In a Facebook post on Friday morning, the chain said stores would be shut until it received clearance from the Ministry of Businesses, Innovation and Employment (MBIE).
"We're really gutted that we can’t be the place for New Zealanders to get their meat & grocery essentials, just at the moment," the post said.
"Please stay safe & well. We can't wait to be back serving you soon. Until then, we’ll focus on keeping our teams, families and communities safe. Stay well NZ."
The lockdown currently enforced in New Zealand to stop the spread of the coronavirus requires non-essential businesses to shut up shop. However, there was confusion in the lead up to the lockdown as to what was counted as essential.
On Wednesday, the Mad Butcher said it would be opening its doors on Thursday, the first day of the lockdown.
"MAD BUTCHER considers that it clearly meets the essential businesses list set out on the MBIE website," a post on the Mad Butcher Facebook page reads, linking to the official list of essential services outlined on the Government's COVID-19 information page.
The list of essential businesses will be regularly updated, but currently defines essential "fast-moving consumer goods" as "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".
Primary industires also have exemptions for food and beverage packing, production and processing.
However, an update on Thursday night confirmed: "Butchers, bakeries and similar small-scale food retailers are considered non-essential, as similar products are readily available in supermarkets."
Addressing previous confusion about whether the Mad Butcher could remain open, Prime Minister Jacinda Arden told More FM on Friday the stores had to close.
"Yes, food is an essential service, but there are lots of places that produce food and we need to minimise the number of workers who have to be out and also the places that people will go to get food. So we have kept it to supermarkets and dairies," she said.
"If you said yes to butchers, you'd say yes to bakeries, then you would have green grocers, then you'd have delis. We do have to draw a line."
When Ardern announced the lockdown on Monday stressed that essential services like doctors, banks, service stations, supermarkets and pharmacies would stay open.
"Non-essential businesses in New Zealand must now close. All bars, restaurants, cafes, gyms, cinemas, pools, museums, libraries, playgrounds and any other place where the public congregate must close their face to face function," she said.
The latest update on the COVID-19 website:
- All supermarkets are considered an essential service
- Farmers markets are not considered to be an essential service, as alternatives are available
- Pest management may be undertaken only where required for human health and safety, and it is essential during the Alert Level 4 period. However, operators must ensure people have somewhere safe to go while the process is underway, in particular where a property is being vacated
- Campgrounds may continue to operate under very strict protocols and management of access. Eg contact to be maintained only with people staying in the same abode/room; common social and recreation areas to be closed; split shift access to common areas
- Backpacker accommodation providers may continue to operate under very strict protocols and management of access conditions. Eg contact to be maintained only with people staying in the same room; common social and recreation areas to be closed; split shift access to common areas
- Butchers, bakeries and similar small-scale food retailers are considered non-essential, as similar products are readily available in supermarkets
- Furniture moving, in general, is not considered to be essential. However, as the deadline for domestic travel has been extended until midnight Friday 27 March, anyone in the process of moving house will need to complete their move before the end of Friday. Similarly, all furniture deliveries currently in transit would need to be also be delivered by the end of Friday
- Natural health services are considered non-essential
- Security is considered an essential service, even if security services are being provided in relation to a premise for a non-essential service
- Self-storage facilities can operate only to facilitate access for essentials. New sales or expiries of units are considered non-essential. Access to existing lockers is permitted for essential items or services only, eg fridges
- Critical support services to ensure businesses and workers can continue working from home are considered to be essential. This includes functions such as IT and Payroll
- Dairies can remain open, with a one-in-one-out rule, and cannot sell cooked food. You can download a 'one at a time in our store please' poster from our resources page.
- Food delivery is prohibited except for supermarket deliveries. Meals-on-Wheels and alternative meals on wheels services that have been referred from a DHB, ACC or MSD may operate and whole-food delivery may continue to operate (eg subscription food boxes are okay)
- Rental cars may be accessed in some circumstances. Ministry of Transport has put out documentation on essential transport logistics and services. Please refer to the Ministry of Transport website(external link)
- Every restaurant, café and bar must close all aspects of their operation
- Self-service laundries can stay open, with 2-metre physical distancing to be enforced
- The Warehouse must close
- 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 is exempt from closure
- NZ Steel is to shut down in a way that allows for production to recommence easily
- Pulp and paper plants are to shut down their non-essential elements in a way that allows for production to recommence easily, and while maintaining essential production
- Methanex can remain in production, but at a scale consistent with the stability of gas supply.