Coronavirus: Remote community newspapers now considered an essential service

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has revealed community newspapers distributed in remote areas of New Zealand will now be considered an essential service during the COVID-19 lockdown.

She confirmed this during her press conference on Tuesday, saying Kiwis need to have access to independent media voices for news and current affairs, as well as for sharing public health information.

"It is a decision that a very limited number of publications, which can demonstrate they fill an unmet need and can also show they have appropriate health and safety measures in place to minimise the transmission of COVID-19 during production and delivery, will be approved as essential," she said.

Deliveries will be made through either New Zealand Post, or at local supermarkets and dairies.

"This decision really relates to some of those smaller, rural, isolated community newspapers, for example," Ardern said.

Other printed periodical and non-daily publications, including magazines, will continue to remain non-essential.

Minister of Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media Kris Faafoi said the move is to recognise the importance for hard-to-reach New Zealanders to stay up-to-date with public health information.

"We recognise there are remote parts of New Zealand with limited digital connectivity, as well as non-English language communities which rely on these outlets to keep informed," he said in a statement.

"We have to maintain a balance of people being able to stay connected with important information which they can trust while also ensuring New Zealanders' health and stopping the spread of the COVID virus remain our top priorities."

He said if media content can be provided another way, such as online, then that should be the mode of publication that outlets use during the level four alert. But he also acknowledged that there are remote communities which won't be able to access up-to-date information through these other means.

"The Government recognises that these were already difficult times for traditional media across the sector, even before COVID-19 hit," Faafoi said.

"The Government remains committed to providing assistance through the wage subsidy and business support packages which have been rolled out in response to this global health emergency."