You will be aware that the Prime Minister has today announced that New Zealand has moved to COVID-19 Alert Level 3, with Alert Level 4 to take place in 48 hours.

Apiculture New Zealand, along with other industry groups, have been in urgent discussions with the Ministry for Primary Industries and had a conference call with the Minister of Agriculture, the Hon Damien O’Connor and Ray Smith, Director General of MPI late this afternoon to understand what this means for the operation of the apiculture industry.

We are relieved to confirm that our industry, like other primary sector industries who supply the food chain, are seen as essential services. That includes beekeepers and those packing and supplying honey and honey-related products.  The following information has just been posted on the COVID-19 website for Essential Businesses (including their supply chain).

However, with that comes a very strong message from both the Minister and MPI – we have been given the opportunity to keep producing and processing honey and that comes with an absolute responsibility that we put safety of our people, and the public first.

This is NOT business as usual.

This is a leadership issue and we are all expected to play our part. That will mean changing the way we operate to making sure we manage social distancing (two metres apart), to not congregating in any way, and to reducing the movement of people as much as possible. The Government’s first priority is to ensure the safety of New Zealanders and there can be no compromise or complacency in how we manage operations going forward.

The key points from the meeting with the Minister and MPI are:

  • The apiculture industry, including beekeeping and processing, are considered essential services under the new COVID-19 Alert Levels 3 and 4
  • However, this a privilege not a right and there will be strict requirements that our industry will need to follow under this new regime to ensure safety is not compromised and we can continue to operate.
  • The details around those requirements is still to come, including what it will mean for hobbyists and commercial beekeepers and processors
  • This will include a registration process covering safety matters and questions that will need to be answered by companies and businesses with more detail on this expected from MPI. Attached is a list of questions from MPI that operators will need to be able to answer.
  • The new Alert levels will operate for the next four weeks and whether they continue will depend on the country’s ability to stem the tide of transmission – our industry has a role to play in this

These are extraordinary times for everyone, and we are pleased to have the opportunity to keep looking after our bees and to keep producing honey for New Zealanders and the rest of the world. Let’s do that responsibly and with safety our paramount concern.  You can expect regular updates as we work with MPI through this. Apiculture New Zealand will also keep its website regularly updated.