French pastries and sex toys are some of the items being delivered to Kiwi homes under lockdown, as the ministry in charge of essential services apologises over creating confusion about the rules.
Business New Zealand said it’s getting around 1000 calls a day from businesses confused about whether or not they can keep operating, especially when it comes to online deliveries.
On the second day of the lockdown it was announced that butchers, bakers and grocers would have to close their shop fronts, but no announcement was made over whether those businesses could do online deliveries.
When asked about extending the rules for online purchasing for food and produce last month, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the goal was to keep as many New Zealanders out of contact with each other.
“That's been a focus for why we haven't been liberal with online purchasing because it's not just about the person who's making the order but the person who's preparing the order,” she said.
But today she said providers of whole foods have always been allowed to deliver if they already did so before the lockdown.
“Where there has been a question mark is for those who only offered a retail offering, then transitioned into online sales.”
One of those businesses is Louis Sergeant’s Sweet Couture, which is delivering French pastries, macarons, bread and ‘health packs’ of hand sanitisers and face masks. Mr Sergeant said he only started the delivery service three days ago, but has been flooded with orders.
“Since yesterday we’ve had over 150 orders, the demands been growing and growing every day, which is great.”
Mr Sergeant said he's operating safely.
“Basically, as I'm the one in the kitchen I can't contaminate anyone. I do all the baking, everything is packed by myself with gloves. I put it in the fridge and some guys come to deliver and pick it up.”
There’s been confusion about what is and isn’t a ‘whole food’. The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment had previously said bread was a prepared food and couldn’t be delivered.
Now it said bread is a whole food, along with products like meat, fresh fruits, fish and vegetables. The ministry wouldn’t comment about whether other baked goods are allowed to be delivered, but its website said cooked foods or prepared foods are not allowed.
Economic development minister Phil Twyford wouldn't be interviewed on the issue today, and his ministry has repeatedly refused interviews about essential services.
An official told 1 NEWS in a statement the rules haven’t been clear enough, and they're being worked on.
“We would like to apologise for creating confusion around this. The essential services information online could be clearer, and we are working at making it simpler.”
BusinessNZ Chief Executive Kirk Hope said there’s been a real sense of frustration from businesses.
“The rules certainly could have been clearer. I know there were businesses who were shut because they were not being able to operate or were thinking they weren't able to operate,” he said.
“There's no doubt as we move to the end of lockdown it would be preferable if we had much greater clarity and certainty for businesses as we move to level three.”
National Party leader Simon Bridges he wasn’t “overly critical” of the government’s work around essential services, but that it had been “chaotic and ill-considered”.
“I think if we stand back and say you know what is it safe? Can they do this without any social contact? We should start opening them up for the good of our economy and health and our people.”
Outside of the food sector, clothes, beauty kits and even sex toys are continuing to be delivered to homes.
Online adult toy store Adult Toy Mega Store said it’s been given clearance by MBIE to keep selling online and doing home deliveries.
“There are thousands of current relationships where their partner is in another isolation bubble. We believe it is vital to ensure people do not need to break their bubbles in order to satisfy their sexual needs,” owner Nicola Relph said.
The Prime Minister said the rules around businesses that don’t have established delivery services will be hashed out tomorrow.
Mr Sergeant said while his sweet treats aren’t technically essential, he should be allowed to keep delivering them.
“Of course it's not essential but today what is essential to me, it's happiness,” he said.
“For me as a pastry chef when you give something sweet to someone you get a smile, they can feel for just ten minutes happy, for me that is essential as well.”