Concerns over transportation of livestock amid delays at Auckland COVID-19 checkpoints

Those in charge of moving livestock are being told to think twice if they have to cross Auckland's border.

Since the latest COVID-19 lockdown came into effect on Sunday morning - with Auckland moving to alert level 3 and the rest of the country to level 2 -  there have been long queues through checkpoints in and out of the city.

Among those forced to wait hours to cross the border have been trucks carrying livestock.

Federated Farmers' Wayne Langford says although the queues are tough for everyone, it's even harder for those carrying animals.

"Certainly you want to keep [the livestock] moving as fast as you can and get those animals off as soon as you can," Langford told Newshub.

"The companies that are shifting those stock around really need to be aware of what's going on and the potential queues, and if stock can't move because the lines are that long then really that stock should be staying at home on the farm until this has broken down a little bit."

Despite the reports of issues crossing the border, Langford said the rural community had learnt a lot since the first lockdown last year and it was essentially "business as usual" this time around for most farmers.

"We've just been milking our cows as we do, and thankfully our market has started to recognise the value in our products and having such a COVID-free environment."

He said strong milk prices so far this year had taken "a lot of stress off the rural community" after a trying 2020.

When the country shifted to different alert levels in August last year, some farmers and growers faced a situation where their land was spread over both sides of the southern border. The result was they couldn't check stock or get essential supplies from one side to the other easily. The checkpoints also led to delays getting fresh fruit and vegetables in and out of Auckland.

That border was moved further south in the three-day lockdown that took place in mid-February, which eased much of the pressure for the agricultural sector.

Langford said since the very first lockdown in March last year, the Government had recognised the challenges faced by the sector and had been working to make things easier.

He said the current focus was on getting New Zealand agricultural products to the international market.

"We've got a significant amount of red meat leaving the country at the moment, also dairy products. So [the Government is ] working well with the processors to ensure that we can actually get our product off and out to market, because logistics and freight have been a bit of a sticky spot for the last few months with the freight lines around the world being thrown into chaos."  

Langford said even for farmers not currently affected by the latest restrictions, it was important to be prepared as the situation could change at any time.

"It's really important that we reiterate that farmers be aware of what's going on. 

"While [Auckland's] in lockdown at the moment, this could spread throughout the country potentially and farmers need to be prepared on farm with what that may look like and what they need on farm, and also for their team on farm, their staff and who they're working with."