Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says she has sympathy for flower growers unable to sell their product at alert level 4.
A protest was held by "fed-up flower growers" on the forecourt of Parliament on Tuesday frustrated their perishable crops are not allowed to be sold under the lockdown rules.
The organising group, Flower Growers Aotearoa, say the restrictions have forced them to destroy months of hard work and investment, with many "on the brink of ruin" as expensive spring crops go "straight to the compost". They say they've applied for an exemption to distribute flowers, which is currently being discussed by officials.
"Whilst other sectors have been allowed to keep selling their products under strict safety protocols, flowers have been overlooked," said Rebecka Keeling from Slow Blooms in Matakana.
"The definition of 'essential' seems arbitrary when supermarkets can keep selling beer, and liquor stores can home-deliver whiskey, but we’re not allowed to sell or distribute flowers at all."
They said there is frustration flowers can't be sold at a time people need them the most.
"A huge amount of people are contacting us about getting flowers to cheer someone up - and it’s usually for someone who is having a tough time," says Nicola Burnett from Brite Blooms Flowers in Kumeū. "Flowers are proven to increase happiness, and it’s really frustrating to have thousands of flowers and not being allowed to brighten someone's day."
On his way into the Beehive ahead of the 1pm COVID-19 briefing, Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield was presented with a bouquet of flowers. He said he would give them to his "amazing executive assistant", who had recently lost a family member.
Asked about gestures from the public, Dr Bloomfield said it meant a lot.
"I know it is not for me, it is for the team. I work with an amazing group of people. They work so hard to look after New Zealanders so I love the acknowledgement that is given. I don't take it personally, although I accept them."
His favourite flowers are peonies.
Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Ardern said she had sympathy for the growers.
"I do and they sit alongside a number of industries where, because our goal at this point is just to limit as much context between people as possible, that they haven't been able to go about their usual jobs and their usual livelihoods. I can only imagine how tough that would be.
"It's all about cumulative risks. The people that are operating at level four, of course, are those that are determined that we need in order for New Zealanders to continue to survive and continue as much as possible, those essentials of life, and so that heavily falls around food production.
"You can see, in Auckland, that we've actually had a number of cases that have happened in those food production environments. We try and reduce risk simply by having as few people who need to be working as possible."
The Ministry for Primary Industries says the "cut flowers/flower buds/bulbs industry" is "not an alert level 4 business or service".
"Businesses involved in the industry have permission to operate at the minimum required to preserve their capital stock. However, they cannot sell their product in New Zealand, including to supermarkets and dairies, or export.
"This approach is consistent with the general policy on all nurseries, which can also operate at the minimum required to preserve their capital stock."