Essential businesses review, Easter trading to be considered

When Cabinet meets today they will review classifications of what businesses are classified as ‘essential’ so can keep trading. There will always be difficulties drawing a line between essential and non-essential, and there will be inevitable anomalies and exceptions.

With Easter less than two weeks way trading that is usually not allowed on Good Friday and Easter Sunday has been questioned.

David Farrar (may be fomenting mischief) at Kiwiblog: Govt should use its powers to temporarily amend the Shop Trading Hours Act

Under the current law every supermarket in New Zealand has to close on Friday 10 April and Sunday 12 April.

As the only significant source of food open in New Zealand, it would be moronic to force them to close. It would also creates even larger queues for supermarkets on the days after. We already have reports of 400 metre long queues to get into supermarkets.

The Government should use it powers to temporarily amend the Shop Trading Hours Act to allow supermarkets to open on 10 and 12 April, should they wish to. They could even stick in a provision stating no one can be forced to work those days.

He has a point. But can supermarkets be forced to open? Workers are under considerable stress and could benefit from a break.

New World has already announced pausing home deliveries:

Some New World stores are adjusting their opening and closing times to allow our team the time to stock the store safely and enables us to provide any additional support they require.

Our staff are working round the clock to make sure customers’ needs are met and we are very conscious of looking after them too. Feeding and caring for our communities is our greatest priority. Thank you for your understanding and support.

Easter & public holiday opening hours for online shopping. Our online shopping service will not be available on public holidays. Therefore, there will be no deliveries or click and collect available on the following days:

Easter:

Friday 10th April- Good Friday
Sunday 12th April- Easter Sunday
Monday 13th April- Easter Monday

Also Foodstuffs is giving a 10 percent pay bonus to its front-line, distribution and transport employees working throughout the Covid-19 lockdown (RNZ Live).

But PM says supermarkets may open over Easter

The Easter Trading Laws could be amended to let supermarkets stay open on Good Friday and Easter Sunday, days where they are normally forced to stay closed.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told Susie Ferguson it depends on whether supermarkets need the time shut to restock shelves, but the government will be talking to them directly about the issue.

She expects to have more to share on the issue within the next 48 hours.

Ardern:

“We are having a direct conversation (with supermarkets) right now over whether or not Easter for them is essential for restocking purposes, and I’m hoping to get more certainty over that issue over the next 24-28 hours”.

“…for me I want a pragmatic response. If the supermarkets tell us ‘we actually need that time to restock shelves that we haven’t been able to catch up on’, that’s in the best interests of New Zealanders as well”.

“It’s such a rare thing now, the visit to the supermarket, it’s quite time consuming, they’re having to wait to make sure there aren’t too many people in the shop. I’d rather make sure they that when they go, the things they’re looking for are there.

“And if Easter trading closures enable supermarkets to restock, then that would be helpful to everyone”.

It would also be helpful for supermarket workers to have a break. As other food sources are closed supermarkets will be busier than ever, some staff will have opted out, or in places like Dunedin students who often work in supermarkets will have returned home.

I was talking to a supermarket worker last night who said she would prefer not to have to work due to risks and isolating her from family but feels she needs to. She is starting an hour earlier than normal at 5 am to cope with the workload.

People should be able to manage with supermarkets being closed for a day or two. We haven’t shopped since the lockdown started and aim to keep shopping trips down to one a week – but someone else I know has already been to the supermarket twice since the lockdown started.


‘Additional decisions and exemptions’ were updated yesterday (see Essential businesses)

  • All supermarkets and dairies are considered essential services. A supermarket’s primary focus is selling food product, and is a retail store operating on a self-service basis, selling groceries, fresh produce, meat, bakery and dairy products, and sometimes an assortment of non-food goods. Dairies must operate a one-in-one-out rule, and cannot sell cooked food.
  • Food delivery other than cooked prepared meals such as takeaways is allowed (eg supermarket home delivery, food parcels from charitable organisations, subscription food boxes, or any other whole-food delivery service). Meals-on-Wheels and alternative meals on wheels services that have been referred from a DHB, ACC or MSD may continue to deliver prepared food. Ordering, payment and delivery must be contactless and the business must operate safely within the general health guidelines such as physical separation and hygiene.
  • Food banks are considered an essential social service. Food banks must operate a one-in-one-out rule, and cannot sell or provide cooked food.
  • Multi-product retailers that supply food and beverage as an ancillary service are not an essential service (eg The Warehouse).
  • Locksmiths can undertake essential work on emergency call-outs and essential activity to maintain the security of premises/personal properties.
  • Turf maintenance is not considered an essential service and should not be undertaken at this time.
  • Pet care services are not considered to be essential, except where necessary to maintain existing boarding of animals in pet care, or for long-term care when no other alternatives are available.
  • Vehicle washing services must only be undertaken when supporting essential services to ensure they are complying with the necessary health and safety requirements eg washing off contaminated or biohazard materials.
  • Road safety equipment for road construction should only be used only where maintenance is essential.
  • Farmers markets are not considered to be an essential service, as alternatives are available.
  • Liquor stores must close to the public unless they are in Licensing Trust Areas and the liquor store is operated by the Licensing Trust in that area. Open premises in Licensing Trust Areas can operate with a one-in-one-out rule.
  • Pest management may be undertaken only where required for human health and safety, and it is essential during the Alert Level 4 period. However, operators must ensure people have somewhere safe to go while the process is underway, in particular where a property is being vacated.
  • Campgrounds may continue to operate under very strict protocols and management of access. Eg contact to be maintained only with people staying in the same abode/room; common social and recreation areas to be closed; split shift access to common areas.
  • Backpacker accommodation providers may continue to operate under very strict protocols and management of access conditions. Eg contact to be maintained only with people staying in the same room; common social and recreation areas to be closed; split shift access to common areas.
  • Butchers, bakeries and similar small-scale food retailers are considered non-essential, as similar products are readily available in supermarkets.
  • Furniture moving, in general, is not considered to be essential. However, as the deadline for domestic travel has been extended until midnight Friday 27 March, anyone in the process of moving house will need to complete their move before the end of Friday. Similarly, all furniture deliveries currently in transit would need to be also be delivered by the end of Friday.
  • Natural health services are considered non-essential.
  • Security is considered an essential service, even if security services are being provided in relation to a premise for a non-essential service.
  • Self-storage facilities can operate only to facilitate access for essentials. New sales or expiries of units are considered non-essential. Access to existing lockers is permitted for essential items or services only, eg fridges.
  • Critical support services to ensure businesses and workers can continue working from home are considered to be essential. This includes functions such as IT and Payroll.
  • Rental cars may be accessed in some circumstances. Ministry of Transport has put out documentation on essential transport logistics and services.
    Please refer to the Ministry of Transport website(external link)
  • Every restaurant, café and bar must close all aspects of their operation.
  • Self-service laundries can stay open, with 2-metre physical distancing to be enforced.
  • Bunnings, Placemakers, Mitre 10 and other retailers essential to the supply chain for building and construction can stay open to trade customers for essential purposes only.
  • The Tiwai Point smelter is exempt from closure.
  • NZ Steel is to shut down in a way that allows for production to recommence easily.
  • Pulp and paper plants are to shut down their non-essential elements in a way that allows for production to recommence easily, and while maintaining essential production.
  • Methanex can remain in production, but at a scale consistent with the stability of gas supply.

For the avoidance of doubt, sectors and occupations specified in the following are also included in this list of essential services:

  • Schedule 1 of the Civil Defence and Emergency Management CDEM Act 2002 Schedule 1 of lifeline utilities AND
  • Employment Relations Act 2000 Schedule 1 of essential services.

One contentious business type is butcheries. Note “Butchers, bakeries and similar small-scale food retailers are considered non-essential, as similar products are readily available in supermarkets.”

Stock of meat held in chillers is being considered.

Halal butchers have appealed this, saying they are essential for Muslims. If Halal meat isn’t readily available in nearby supermarkets they have a point – if Muslims stop eating meat because they can’t get what they want that could affect their nutrition and health. No one should be forced to consume food that breaches their religious beliefs (not just Muslims).

But of course if Halal butchers are granted an exemption other butchers will feel hard done by (with some justification). And people who like to gripe about Muslims will see it as an excuse to rant some more.

Flaw with Foodstuffs facial recognition

It has been revealed that Foodstuffs supermarkets are using facial recognition to try to recognise shoplifters after a Dunedin man was incorrectly identified. Foodstuffs claims this was ‘human error’ .

ODT: Foodstuffs using facial recognition

Inquiries about a Dunedin man mistakenly identified as a shoplifter at New World have led to the revelation that New Zealand’s largest supermarket company  has quietly rolled out facial recognition CCTV technology in some of its North Island stores.

The man was allegedly mistakenly identified due to human error, and Foodstuffs NZ claimed facial recognition was not used in the South Island. However, the Otago Daily Times can reveal a different security system that “bridges the gap between businesses and the police” is now used at the Centre City New World in Dunedin, among other South Island stores.

Dunedin mechanic Daniel Ryan said he was recently taken aside by staff shortly after entering the Centre City New World in Great King St, owned by Foodstuffs. He alleged he was taken into a side room and questioned by staff, who said he had been identified as a known shoplifter.

Mr Ryan said the staff then realised he had been mis-identified and he received an apology from the company. While he appreciated the apology, the experience left him feeling humiliated.

“It’s quite bruising to be shuffled off to the side.”

This is disgraceful.

Foodstuffs head of external relations Antoinette Laird said “human error” had led to Mr Ryan being mistakenly identified as a shoplifter. Asked if Centre City New World was using a facial recognition surveillance system, Ms Laird said the technology was used in some of its stores, but none in Dunedin.

“A handful of stores in the North Island have facial recognition CCTV technology as part of their security system.

“We cannot provide specific store detail.”

Facial recognition technology is widely used by retailers overseas.

Supermarkets already have the ability to profile shoppers via the use of ‘loyalty’ cards. What next? In store promotions targeting face recognised shoppers?

That would be insidious, but nowhere near as bad as incorrectly identifying someone and falsely accusing them of being a shop lifter.

Whether New World in Dunedin use face recognition ‘security’ or not this incident raises an alarming issue.

I sometimes shop at Centre City New World. I will think carefully about whether I want to be observed in this way while shopping.