Coronavirus: Agriculture Minister's blunt message to farmers on COVID-19

The Agriculture Minister has delivered a blunt message to farmers amid confusion over what is deemed 'essential' work during the COVID-19 lockdown.

Primary industries and those who supply them have been deemed an essential service, so can continue to work during the restrictions.

However companies will need to follow strict health and safety rules to stop the spread of the virus.

Minister Damien O'Connor posted a message to farmers on Facebook.

"I know there is still a lot of uncertainty for farmers, growers and the wider rural community right now about what is and is not an essential service," he said.

"A lot of the questions and comments I've seen coming through are very focused on the individual, and what's important to them.

"It's vital right now that we remember what this is all about - and that's saving lives."

He urged farmers and growers to put their personal circumstances to one side "for the collective good of the country".

"Let's remember that our sector is in the fortunate position of being allowed to continue operating - the vast majority are not," O'Connor continued.

"We are allowed to continue operating because it's been deemed that we are critical to providing the necessities of life for everyone in New Zealand - that being food."

Some farm work will have have to be deferred over the four-week period, he said, with the yardstick being: "Is this activity essential to providing the necessities of life?"

"Is shoeing your horse or getting a farrier in critical? Or emptying your effluent pond? Or maintaining the lawns at the golf/rugby club? (Yes - that is seriously a question someone asked me)."

"If it's not critical to providing the necessities of life, it has to wait."

Key contacts: 

- Go to to register as an essential primary sector business

- Go to for everything you need to know about the response

- If you have a query about 'Essential Services' you can put you questions directly through on:

p: 0508 377388 (toll free)