The Government is refining its COVID-19 essential business guide to include the distribution of news publications for communities which are hard to reach.

The Minister of Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media, Kris Faafoi, said the move was in recognition of the importance for New Zealanders who might be harder to reach having access to news publications, which can share important up-to-date public health messaging during the COVID-19 emergency.

Notably, media has always been deemed as essential services ever since the country went into Alert Level-4 Lockdown on Wednesday, March 26. However, in a subsequent update to the list of Essential Services by the Ministry of Business and Employment (MBIE) they were removed from the essential services allowed to operate during the lockdown period, raising many concerns across the communities. subsequently. 

Following increased concerns from various communities, including the opposition National Party, the government has today again included them in the list of Essential Services. 

“We recognise there are remote parts of New Zealand with limited digital connectivity, as well as non-English language communities which rely on these outlets to keep informed, so we have expanded the COVID-19 essential business guidance to include community news publications which can meet certain criteria,” Kris Faafoi said.

The guidance has expanded to cover news publications that:

  • serve a need for hard to reach rural communities, with reduced connectivity,
  • and/or serve non-English speaking communities,
  • and have appropriate health and safety measures to minimise the spread of COVID-19 during production and delivery.

“We have to maintain a balance of people being able to stay connected with important information which they can trust while also ensuring New Zealanders’ health and stopping the spread of the COVID virus remain our top priorities.

“The Government asks that where community media content can be provided by other means, such as online, we ask them to focus on those modes of publication during the heightened COVID-19 Alert. But we accept that there are remote communities and non-English language communities who may not be able to access up-to-date information by other means.

“The Government recognises that these were already difficult times for traditional media across the sector, even before COVID-19 hit, and that restrictions which remain in place for other publications, such as non-daily magazines, are adding to their financial challenges.

“The Government remains committed to providing assistance through the wage subsidy and business support packages which have been rolled out in response to this global health emergency,” Kris Faafoi said.