The Department of Conservation will resume limited field work when New Zealand moves to COVID-19 Alert Level 3, while the public will be able to enjoy low-risk, local outdoor activities.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced the country will move from COVID-19 Alert Level 4 to Alert Level 3 from 11.59pm on April 27. This shift allows DOC staff to undertake important conservation work across the country, said DOC deputy director-general operations, Mike Slater.
“Under Alert Level 3 New Zealanders will be able to enjoy a little more of the great outdoors, but DOC’s campsites, huts and visitor centres will remain closed,” Slater said.
Visitors can enjoy local DOC tracks, but overnight activities will not be permitted.
“We’re still encouraging New Zealanders to spend time in nature, but at Alert Level 3 there will be limitations – any outdoor activities should remain local, be limited to shorter local tracks around three hours, and visitors need to maintain two-metre physical distancing.”
Activities should only be done with people from the same ‘bubble’, Slater said.
As it’s not possible to service DOC toilets to COVID-19 standards, these facilities remain closed – unless use is unavoidable – and visitors must take their litter home with them.
“For places to remain open and to ensure everyone’s safety, we must all stick to the Government’s guidelines outdoors, keep travel to a minimum and plan activities to avoid the need to use public bins and toilets,” Slater said.
“People should continue to avoid activities that expose them to danger or may require search and rescue services.”
At Alert Level 3, hunting will be prohibited on public land but permitted on private land.
Slater said most DOC staff will continue to work from home to help stop the spread of COVID-19, and any field work will be closely managed, with health and safety the key focus.
“We’ve ordered appropriate PPE for our people, and the correct use of that will be absolutely paramount for any DOC staff permitted to do field work,” he said.
Any field work must be done in teams of two, unless authorised, and teams’ travel will be restricted and monitored.