COVID-19: Travel within New Zealand

Last updated: 23 September 2021

From 11.59pm on Tuesday 21 September Auckland is at Alert Level 3. Temporary Alert Level 4 restrictions apply to Upper Hauraki until midday 24 September. The rest of New Zealand remains at Alert Level 2.

Alert Level boundaries remain in place around Auckland. Travel into, out of, through or within different Alert Levels is highly restricted. That is to minimise spread of the virus.

Do not travel unless it is absolutely necessary. Attempting to cross a boundary without permission is an offence.

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Work-related travel

At Alert Level 3 and 4, travel is restricted to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Essential workers who are moving around create more risk of transmission of the virus than people who are staying at home.

The Government is introducing a requirement for workers who need to cross Alert Level boundaries in order to work at a permitted business, to get tested, whether they have symptoms or not.

All Alert Level 4, workers who are permitted to cross the Auckland boundary will be required to have evidence of a test taken within the seven days before crossing the boundary.

From 11.59pm on 9 September 2021, employers of essential workers who need to cross regional boundaries for work must have a process in place to enable these employees to be tested for COVID-19.

This includes enabling their workers to undergo testing, medical examination, or both during their working hours.

The obligation on workers crossing the boundary to carry this evidence takes effect on 11.59pm, 16 September.

This is when Police will begin their compliance checking, which will involve them spot checking and turning people around who do not have evidence of a test.

The proof of test will be in addition to permission to travel documentation (the Business Travel Document, work order or employer letter) that all workers are currently carrying when they travel in and out of Auckland.

There is no cost for essential workers who get a test for this purpose. Nasal swab testing is available at community testing sites around Auckland or at GP practices. Go to the Healthpoint website for testing locations in your area

This regular testing will provide the assurance that travel is being done safely and prevent COVID-19 crossing boundaries from these higher risk settings.

Public health advice continues to be that anyone who develops symptoms should get tested. We also know that fully vaccinated people are more likely to have a mild illness and may not develop symptoms, and that transmission may still be possible, although less likely in people who are vaccinated.

These workers will not be required to stand down or stay at home while awaiting their result, as this additional testing is to provide assurance travel in and out of boundaries is being done safely.

We are working with different sectors to understand how we can minimise the impact of this additional testing for workers, employers and supply chains, while providing assurance that travel across the boundary is being done safely.

If you need to travel across or within an Alert Level boundary for work or business reasons, go to the MBIE website to check if you need to apply for a travel exemption.

Health care workers

If you’re a health care worker (including pharmacy staff) you can travel within and across an Alert Level boundary if you present photo ID from your place of work. If you don’t have a work photo ID, you will need to have:

  • a letter from your employer confirming your place of work, and dates and reason for travel; and
  • a form of photo ID, such as a New Zealand driver licence or passport.

If you don’t have photo ID, a personal photo that is contained within the letter from your employer is recommended. Alternatively, your employer may have supplied you with a QR code to facilitate fast processing at the Alert Level Boundary.

Exemptions for personal travel across or within an Alert Level boundary

Alert Level boundaries are in place around Auckland. View a map of regional boundaries.

Travel within, into, out of or through different Alert Levels is highly restricted.

There are some already permitted reasons for personal travel listed on the Unite Against COVID-19 website. If your reason for personal travel is listed there, you do not need to apply for a personal travel exemption. If your reason is not listed, you must apply for an exemption.

Before you apply you must be sure that:

  • your need to travel across the Alert Level boundary is urgent and cannot be delayed; and 
  • there is no one else (who would not need to cross an Alert Level boundary) who can attend the event or perform the activity instead of you.

Given ongoing concerns about the Delta variant it will be very difficult to get an exemption for personal travel. 

The following reasons for a personal travel exemption will not be approved. Please do not apply if your reason for travel is:

  • travel to return home from Alert Level 3 to Alert Level 2 - the Government is currently considering changes to this type of exemption, so the Ministry of Health has paused decision making on any such applications until Tuesday, 28 September.
  • relocating from Alert Level 3 to Alert Level 2 - the Government is currently considering changes to this type of exemption, so the Ministry of Health has paused decision making on any such applications until Tuesday, 28 September.
  • going on a pre-booked holiday
  • attending a wedding or civil union
  • attending a significant celebration of a close whānau or family member
  • finalising the purchase of a house or business premises
  • collecting an item you purchased online
  • returning to the region you attend school or university
  • travelling to attend an exam or other assessment
  • assisting someone else to travel for the above reasons

Anyone travelling across an Alert Level boundary is strongly encouraged to get vaccinated before travelling across the boundary.

Only the Ministry of Health can approve personal travel exemptions to cross an Alert Level boundary.

Change to some personal travel exemptions

From midday Wednesday 22 September, it is possible to apply for an exemption to travel across the regional Alert Level boundary into Auckland to:

  • attend a funeral/tangihanga, accompany a tūpāpaku/deceased person or visit a dying family member, or
  • provide support or care to another person who is unwell, or provide childcare where the parents or guardians are returning to work.

The threshold for exemption approval remains very high, as we still need to contain the virus, and people will need to provide evidence of the need for travel.

As with other exemptions, if people are approved, they must also:

  • stick to the approved travel and not go anywhere else.
  • If leaving the Alert Level 3 area, have a negative COVID-19 test no more than 3 days prior to departure or a certificate from a doctor who examined them within three days prior to travel confirming they have been exempted on medical grounds from being tested and exhibited no symptoms of COVID-19. 
Attending a funeral/tangihanga 

Exemptions to travel across an Alert Level boundary to attend a tangihanga or funeral will only be considered if:

  • the person who has passed away is an immediate family member; and
  • the applicant has verification the person has passed away (for example, a death certificate); and
  • the applicant is travelling from Alert Level 2 into Alert Level 3, and
  • will stay in Alert Level 3 until restrictions are eased or provide evidence of a test taken in the Alert Level 3 area within 72 hours of showing up at the boundary; or
  • the applicant is travelling from Alert Level 3 into Alert Level 2, will adhere to all Alert Level 3 restrictions while in the lower alert level area (except for attending the gathering of the funeral or tangihanga), and will return to their bubble in Alert Level 3 as soon as the funeral is over.

Separate Alert Level rules apply about attending funerals and tangihanga, such as the maximum number of people and requirements to wear masks.

Accompanying a tūpāpaku or deceased person

Exemptions to travel across an Alert Level boundary to accompany a tūpāpaku or deceased person will be considered if:

  • it is culturally appropriate (e.g. according to tikanga Māori) for the applicant to be the, or one of the, people accompanying the tūpāpaku; and
  • the applicant has provided evidence the tūpāpaku recently passed away (for example, a death certificate); and
  • the applicant is travelling from Alert Level 2 into Alert Level 3, and will stay in Alert Level 3 until restrictions are eased or provide evidence of a test taken in the Alert Level 3 area within 72 hours of showing up at the boundary; or
  • the applicant is travelling from Alert Level 3 into Alert Level 2, and will adhere to all Alert Level 3 restrictions while in the lower alert level area.
Visiting and saying goodbye to someone who is dying

Exemptions to travel across an Alert Level boundary to visit and say goodbye to someone who is dying will be considered if:

  • The person who is dying is an immediate family member; and
  • the applicant has provided evidence that the person is expected to pass away within the next couple of weeks; or 
  • due to an accident or emergency, the person is in a critical condition and not expected to recover; and
  • the applicant is named in a letter of support from the persons hospital, hospice, or rest home etc. to visit; and
  • the applicant is travelling from Alert Level 2 into Alert Level 3, and will stay in Alert Level 3 until restrictions are eased or provide evidence of a test taken in the Alert Level 3 area within 72 hours of showing up at the boundary; or
  • the applicant is travelling from Alert Level 3 into Alert Level 2, and will adhere to all Alert Level 3 restrictions while in the lower alert level area (except for visiting the person who is dying).
Providing childcare because parents or guardians are returning to work

Exemptions to travel across an Alert Level boundary to provide childcare because parents or guardians are returning to work will be considered if:

  • the carer is travelling from Alert Level 2 into Alert Level 3 (not the other way), and
  • no shared caregiving arrangement is available within the Alert Level 3 region, and
  • the carer agrees to stay in the Alert Level 3 region, in the household of the children they will be providing care to, until the region moves to Alert Level 2. 
Providing care or support to someone who is unwell

Exemptions to travel across an Alert Level boundary to provide care or support to someone who is unwell will be considered if:

  • the relationship to the person makes the applicant the most appropriate carer and
  • there is no one else within the same Alert Level as the person that can take care of them and
  • the applicant does not pose an undue health risk to the vulnerable person; and
  • a letter from the persons healthcare provider confirms they are unwell and need the applicant’s help. 

Definition of an immediate family member

For the purposes of personal travel exemptions to go into another Alert Level area, an immediate family member is limited to a:

  • Spouse or partner;
  • Parent;
  • Child;
  • Sibling;
  • Grandparent;
  • Grandchild;
  • Spouse’s or partner’s parent;
  • Whāngai; or
  • Matua whāngai.

Apply for an exemption for personal travel across or within a regional Alert Level boundary

Please check the permitted reasons for travel before applying for an exemption for personal travel across a regional boundary.

To help limit the spread of COVID-19, very few applications for a personal travel exemption are being approved.

If your application is declined you may reapply only if you have additional information. Do not submit multiple applications for the same travel reason.

If approved to travel, evidence that you are free of COVID-19 will be required if you are moving out of Alert Level 4

It is a condition of any approved exemption for travel to move out of Alert Level 4 that upon arrival at the boundary you show evidence of either:

  • a negative COVID-19 test. The test should have been taken no more than three days prior to travel, or
  • a certificate from a doctor who examined you within three days prior to travel confirming you have been exempted on medical grounds from being tested and that you exhibited no symptoms of COVID-19. 

Failure to show either form of evidence could result in you being turned back at the boundary.

Apply

To apply for a personal exemption to travel across or within an Alert Level boundary please use our online form.

We will process your application and get back to you as soon as possible.

You must not attempt to cross the Alert Level boundary until you have received a notification to say your application has been approved and you have the necessary evidence that you are free of COVID-19.

Personal travel exemption data (for travel across regional boundaries only)

Updated at 8am on 24 September 2021

  Exemptions to travel across an Alert Level boundary (eg, AL3 to AL4)
Applications received 8628
Applications approved 464
Applications declined 5193
Applications in progress 1875
Health exemption not required* 1096

*a Health exemption is not required if the request is for travel already permitted under the Order or is for business or work-related travel, which is referred to MBIE.

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