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Toby Morris
Toby Morris

BusinessOctober 5, 2021

Auckland moves to level three, step one. What are the new rules?

Toby Morris
Toby Morris

Call it level three step one, call it level 2.75, but level three restrictions for Auckland are being ‘eased’ in three stages. Here’s what changes.

Tonight New Zealand’s most populous region sees the loosening of a handful of restrictions as part of a staged plan or “road map” to exit level three lockdown, despite ongoing mystery cases of Covid in the community. 

“Elimination was important because we didn’t have vaccines. Now we do, so we can begin to change the way we do things,” said the prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, on announcing the shift. 

“We need to continue to contain and control the virus as much as possible while we make our transition from a place where we only use heavy restrictions, to a place where we use vaccines and everyday public health measures … This is a change in approach we were always going to make over time. This Delta outbreak has accelerated that transition.

Here’s how things change.

Level 2.75? What’s level 2.75?

It remains level three, but restrictions ease at the first stop on a three-step road map. No one is calling it level 2.75.

It says level 2.75 right there in the intro and the picture.

So it does. It’s a tricky virus. Think of it as more like level three minus a quarter. Level three with a little gentle whittling.  

When does this first variation on level three, step one, kick in?

Auckland will be arriving at step one on the three step level three offramp at 11.59pm tonight, Tuesday October 5.

And what changes for people in Auckland?

In brief:
– You can catch up with members of another household, but only outdoors
– Early childhood centres can reopen, with kids in bubbles of up to 10.
– More outdoor recreation will be allowed.
Otherwise, it’s level three as usual. Your friendly introduction to the level three rules can be found here.

Do these changes apply to northwest Waikato?

No. Hamilton city, Raglan, Te Kauwhata, Ngāruawāhia and Huntly went into level three on Monday after cases were detected in Raglan and Hamilton East. They’ll remain provisionally at that status until the end of Friday, but in keeping with the unfussy sensibilities of Waikato, they’re not having any of this fancy road-map three-step hullabaloo. Old-school level three for them.

Where do the regional boundaries lie? 

Here’s a map with the Auckland region and the level three bit of Waikato marked up.

You can search by address here

Does it look a bit like a good dog in a dinner jacket?

Yes it does. It’s thinking, “I hope all eligible humans over the age of 12 get vaccinated really soon.”

What are the other two steps for Auckland?

Under step two, gatherings of up to 25 people will be permitted, again outdoors only. Shops, pools and zoos reopen, with masks and physical distancing required. 

In step three, hospitality and hairdressers return to business. Gatherings in those places, and anywhere inside or outside, of up to 50 are allowed. 

More on all of that here.

And when might those steps happen?

TBD. Over the next four to eight weeks, Bloomfield indicated. The measures will be reviewed on a weekly basis; the possibility of hopping back and forth if some loosening is resulting in too much pressure on hospitals has not been ruled out. The more vaccinated the population becomes, the likelier Auckland will move through the steps. Get vaccinated. 

What are the rules around outdoor gatherings in “step one”?

You and your household can meet members of another household, but only outside. Examples laid out by the PM: “Children can have a playdate in a park, friends can meet outside for a walk, a picnic or a beer.”

Do we have to keep it exclusive, or can I play the picnic field?

You can only meet up with one other household at any given time, but you can meet another household at another time. Picnic hopping around the local park is probably not a good idea, however.

I’ve missed my friends. Can I hug them?

Ugh, gross, no. Keep to distancing rules. Wear a mask if you’re not eating or drinking.

Should I get vaccinated?


Can my kid have an outdoor sleepover with a friend?

Don’t know. Seems like a really bad idea.

If I’m around at a friend’s (outside) and I need to go to the bathroom (inside) can I?

Mixed messages on this at yesterday’s press conference. The prime minister said something about weak bladders and said no. The director general of health said yes as long as you’re not having a gathering in the toilet. 

Update: The Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet advises that there is to be no going into another person’s house. The prime minister wins the pissing contest (sorry) against the director general of health. The clarification, in full: “Visitors cannot go into your house at all. This includes walking through a house to access the backyard or use of bathroom facilities. If you have visitors they can meet in your garden or in an outdoor public space. The golden rule is that your gathering of 10 people is outdoors to reduce the ability of the virus to transmit.”

What about early childhood learning centres?

They can, but with bubbles kept to 10 children. While it was at first presented as “early childhood education will return for all”, it’s clear that won’t be the case. Many ECE centres simply won’t be able to accommodate many kids beyond those of essential workers. Parents will need to wear masks for drop off and pick up and masks will be required for staff. Teachers are encouraged to get tested.

And what new recreational activities await?

Aucklanders can travel around the region for “recreation purposes”.  Sailing! Fishing! Cross-fit! Lawn bowls! Outside, though, 10 people tops, and so on. 

What about exercise classes?

Outdoor exercise classes can take place, according the latest advice as of Tuesday evening. The 10 people maximum applies, instructor included, but not the two household limit. “They do need to maintain two metre physical distancing and remain outdoors at all times,” is the official ruling. “People cannot use indoor or changing facilities.”

What about a group kick-around? Team sports?

Any organised recreational activity is limited to 10 people, but that can come from any number of bubbles. Physical distancing is required, so contact sports are a no-go.

Can we do a playdate under these new rules?

Yes, and so can your children. But they must happen but outdoors. The advice, again: “The intention of step one is to allow people to reconnect with close friends and whānau. People are asked to act responsibly by keeping their contacts to a minimum, keep track of who they are seeing and follow health guidelines. Children visiting the house cannot enter the house to use the toilet or access the outdoor play area.”

Can hairdressers operate outside?

No. Not even with telescopic garden shears. Sorry.

Can I travel to my holiday home, bach, or another house within the Auckland level three area?

To the tune of the world’s smallest violin: no. Day trips only.

How about schools?

The plan is for schools to reopen on October 18, when the holidays finish. That rests on more public health advice and will be confirmed in the week ahead. Masks indoors will be required for staff and students at secondary school level. Learners who live in alert level two regions will be able to travel into alert level three to attend school.

And tertiary education?

Unchanged at this point. In level three, almost all universities, polytechnics and other tertiary providers should stick to online learning. Where that’s impossible, some in person services can operate in accordance with health guidelines and at a limit of 10 per class. 

Given Auckland and northwest Waikato are now in level three, can I travel between them?

No, not unless you have special status or exemption. Same as before. The checkpoints remain. Stay in your region. 

What about the rest of New Zealand?

Level two until further notice. As you’ll have seen, a truck driver received a positive test result in Palmerston North the other day. Covid somehow made it to Hamilton, then Raglan. Despite all the requirements in place for workers crossing the border (which do include testing, don’t include rapid testing and don’t include vaccine mandates), the novel coronavirus loves to throw out a thumb and hitch a ride. 

What changes in step one for workplaces?

Nothing, unless you work for an ECE. Under step two and three more will change for retail and others. But for now, the work rules of level three are essentially unchanged.

And those are?

The default is to work from home, unless the work has to be done in the workplace. But if your workplace can’t operate according to the distancing and safety rules, you need to remain closed.

What are the distancing and safety rules?

Briefly: physical distancing of at least a metre between people, hygiene measures, fully contactless options for ordering, pick-up, delivery and payment. That means, until step two, no customers on the premises, with a few exceptions (supermarkets, pharmacies, etc). 

How about funerals and tangihanga? 

Level three rules are unchanged: they can go ahead, but only up to 10 people can attend. More here.


Same. Ten people. Who needs a crowd?

Is it a good idea to get vaccinated?

It’s a good idea for you, and it’s a good idea for the people you love. Get vaccinated.

Keep going!