Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern

Ministerial Statement on the Declaration of a National Emergency and Alert Level 4

delivered 25 March 2020, House Parliament Building, Wellington, New Zealand

Audio AR-XE mp3 of Address


[AUTHENTICITY CERTIFIED: Text version below transcribed directly from audio (2)]

Mr. Speaker,

I wish to make a Ministerial Statement informing the House of a state of national emergency, and the country moving to Alert Level 4.

Mr. Speaker,

Having considered the advice of the Director Civil Defence Emergency Management, the Minister of Civil Defence declared a State of National Emergency for the whole of New Zealand under section 661 of the Civil Defence Emergency Management Act 2002, on March the 25th, 2020, at 12.21pm.

This is to manage the spread of the COVID-19 epidemic within New Zealand.

The Minister of Civil Defence took this step because of the unprecedented nature of this global pandemic; and because he considered the response required to combat COVID-19 is of such a degree that it will be beyond the capacity of local Civil Defence Emergency Management Groups to respond to it on their own.

This pandemic also requires a significant and coordinated response by and across central and local government.

Also, under section 52 of the Epidemic Preparedness Act 2006, yesterday I issued an Epidemic Notice, nationwide, to help ensure the continuity of essential Government business due to the unprecedented effects of the global pandemic, COVID-19, which is likely to significantly disrupt essential governmental and business activity in New Zealand.

This Epidemic Notice came into effect today, the 25th of March 2020, just after midnight. And it will remain for three months with ongoing review, and from which, now, further Epidemic Management Notices and Epidemic Modification Orders can be given -- particularly across local government, immigration, and social services, crucial services that now need flexibility to operate due to the effects of an epidemic in our country and an impending shutdown to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

At 11.59pm tonight, we move to the highest Alert Level 4,3 and we, as a nation, go into self-isolation.

The trigger: early evidence of community transmission of COVID-19 in New Zealand. But unlike so many other gravely inundated countries, we have a window of opportunity to stay home, break the chain of transmission, and save lives. It’s that simple.

In this fight against a virus, we have some things on our side.

We are moving into this next phase of our response early -- ahead of any potential over-run of our hospitals; ahead of any deaths on New Zealand soil. But that does not mean we should be complacent. And that’s why we must take this period of self-isolation deadly seriously.

This means we will go about life very differently to help slow down the spread of COVID-19, and in that we all have a role to play. Only those in essential services will leave home to go to work. All others stay home and stop interactions with those outside the home.

- Non-essential business premises close.
- Events and gatherings are cancelled.
- Schools close.
- Public transport is reserved for those undertaking essential services and transport of freight.
- Domestic air travel is very limited.
- New Zealanders entering at our borders undergo strict measures to isolate or quarantine.

From midnight tonight, we bunker down for four weeks to try and stop the virus in its tracks, and to try to break the chain. Make no mistake: This will get worse before it gets better. We will have a lag and cases will increase for the next week -- or actually more, Mr. Speaker. Then we’ll begin to know how successful we have been.

I am fully aware that we have moved with huge speed. No other country in the world has moved to these measures with no deaths and infections at their level that we have. We currently have five people in our hospitals, none in ICUs or needing ventilators at this stage.

But we have no time to waste. We could have waited to plan every intricate detail required to execute this closure, till we could answer every single question or circumstance. But every hour we wait is one more person, two more people, three more people, exposed to Covid-19.
That is why we did not wait. We established an alert system with clear guidance on when we must act, and why. We asked people to prepare, and then moved decisively.

These moves will be enforced. And we will be the enforcer.

Yesterday, I issued the Epidemic Notice and today the Minister of Civil Defence declared a State of National Emergency, both of which provide us the powers for Government to move the country to [Alert] Level 4.

This is the second time in New Zealand’s history that a State of National Emergency has been declared. The first was on February the 23rd, 2011. It followed the 6.3 magnitude earthquake in Christchurch. It followed the death of many New Zealanders, the total destruction of much infrastructure, and the crippling of essential services.

It was declared to allow the greatest possible coordination of local, national, and international resources to work on these -- on rescue and recovery. (I acknowledge Members on the other side of their House will know well...the magnitude of that declaration at that time.)

Today we put in place our country’s second State of National Emergency as we fight a global pandemic, as we fight to save New Zealanders’ lives; to prevent the very worst that we’ve seen in other countries around the world from happening here; to protect our essential health services; to cushion the economic impacts of COVID-19.

A State of National Emergency to preserve our way of life.

Every person still at work, interacting with others, increases the risk of the virus spreading exponentially and means we could be in lockdown for longer. That means people will be out of work for longer, doing further damage to livelihood and lives. There will be no tolerance for that. We will not hesitate to use our enforcement powers if needed.

Through the early and hard measures we’ve taken at the border, using the powers under the Health Act, the signing of epidemic notices, now, being in a State of National Emergency, we have all of the legislative means possible, all the enforcement powers, all the tools we need to combat COVID-19.

Under the Civil Defence Emergency Management Act 2002, today’s declaration of a State of National Emergency will allow the Director Civil Defence Emergency Management to direct, coordinate, and use the resources made available to manage and respond to COVID-19.

The Director of Civil Defence Emergency Management may also control the exercise and performance of functions, duties, and powers of Civil Defence Emergency Management Groups and Group Controllers across the country. While in force, it will allow Controllers to provide for:

- conservation and supply of food, fuel, and [other] essential supplies;
- regulate land, water, and air traffic;
- to close roads and public places;
- to evacuate any premises, including any public place;
- and, if necessary, to exclude people or vehicles from any premises or place.

Those are the powers that sit alongside this declaration. This declaration helps us limit our exposure, and the exposure of the most vulnerable members of [our community, to COVID-19.

An Epidemic Notice further strengthens our response. It does a number of things, including allowing for special powers for medical officers of health, and immediately unlocks powers under the Corrections, Health, and Electoral Acts.

But importantly, an Epidemic Notice sits as an umbrella over further notices that can now be issued, and which have now been issued, to change and modify specific parts of legislation in a common sense and pragmatic way to keep our systems working in a time of shutdown -- and get rid of particular requirements that are impracticable to comply with [in] a time of an epidemic and when in lockdown.

Specifically, that means for our immigration sector:

- Temporary visas are automatically extended to late September. This comes into effect from Thursday the 2nd of April, 2020, and means travelers with a temporary work, student, visitor, interim, and limited, visa expiring before 1 April, 2020, who are unable to leave New Zealand must apply online for a new visa, and an interim visa will be issued.

- Travelers with a temporary visa due to expire between 1 April and 9 July, 2020, will have their visas extended to late September. Confirmation of extensions will be emailed directly to all visa holders.

Detailed information is on the Immigration New Zealand website and But anyone concerned about their visa should contact Immigration New Zealand.

For our social service sector, an epidemic notice means:

- The Ministry for Social Development can grant emergency benefits to people who would otherwise not be entitled to them (including temporary workers who lose a job). This sits as a necessary partner to the Government’s multi-billion dollar economic assistan[ce] package that aims to keep people in jobs and with an income, including wage subsidies for all workers working legally in New Zealand and redeployment packages to be utilized post this period, Mr. Speaker.

- It also allows for extra flexibility in relation to the payment, reinstatement, grant, increase, cancellation, suspension, or variation of benefits.

These notices and the powers which they carry are not issued lightly. The restrictions in place on New Zealanders’ movements are the most significant in our modern history. I do not underestimate the gravity of what is being asked of you, of everyone. But we have a limited window of opportunity.

New Zealanders want to see that these measures are being complied with but in a way that we’re used to seeing as New Zealanders. As Police Commissioner Mike Bush said, the Police and the Military will be working together and there is assistance at the ready if required. If people do not follow the messages here today, then the police will remind people of their obligations. They have the ability to escalate if required. They can arrest if needed. They can detain if needed.

Speaker of the House: I -- I can see the Prime Minister has got a little way to go. In these matters I am the sole judge of time and what I am indicating to the House is both for the Prime Minster and the Leader of the Opposition: I'm not watching the clock.

PM Ardern: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I will now summarize. These are all tools of last resort, at a time when I know New Zealanders will rally -- because that is what we do.

And so, as we enter into a stage that none of us have experienced before, I want to share a few final messages:

- Firstly, you are not alone. You will hear us -- all of us -- and see us daily as we guide New Zealand through this period. It won’t always be perfect. But the principle of what we are trying to do here is the right one.

- Secondly, success won’t be instant. The benefit of what we do today, won’t be felt for many days to come. Expect our numbers to keep rising, because they will. But don't be discouraged. Over time, we will see change if we all stick to the plan.

- Thirdly, you may not be at work, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have a job. Your job is to save lives, and you can do that by staying home, and breaking the chain.

- And finally, if you have any questions about what you can or cannot do during this period, apply a simple principle: Act like you have COVID-19. Every move you then make is a risk to someone else. That is how we all must collectively think from now on. That’s why the joy of physically visiting other family, children, grandchildren, friends, neighbors -- for many, that is on hold now, because we’re all now putting each other first. And that is what we do so well as a nation.

So, New Zealand: be calm, be kind, stay at home, and break the chain.

1 "66 Minister may declare state of national emergency

(1) The Minister may declare that a state of national emergency exists over the whole of New Zealand or any areas or districts if at any time it appears to the Minister that—
(a) an emergency has occurred or may occur; and
(b) the emergency is, or is likely to be, of such extent, magnitude, or severity that the civil defence emergency management necessary or desirable in respect of it is, or is likely to be, beyond the resources of the Civil Defence Emergency Management Groups whose areas may be affected by the emergency.

(2) The Minister must advise the House of Representatives as soon as practicable where a state of national emergency has been declared or extended.

(3)If a declaration of a state of national emergency is made, any other state of emergency then in force in the area to which the state of national emergency applies ceases to have effect."

2 "5 Prime Minister may enable use of special powers

(1) With the agreement of the Minister of Health, the Prime Minister may, by notice in the Gazette, declare that he or she is satisfied that the effects of an outbreak of a stated quarantinable disease (within the meaning of the Health Act 1956) are likely to disrupt or continue to disrupt essential governmental and business activity in New Zealand (or stated parts of New Zealand) significantly.

(2) Subsection (1) applies whether the outbreak is occurring within New Zealand or overseas.

(3) If not renewed under section 7(1), the notice expires on the earliest of the following:
(a) the day 3 months after its commencement:
(b) a day stated in the notice:
(c) a day stated for the purpose by the Prime Minister by further notice in the Gazette.

(4) The Prime Minister must not give the notice except on, and after considering, the written recommendation of the Director-General of Health.

(5) As soon as is possible after giving the notice, the Prime Minister must present a copy to the House of Representatives.

(6) While the notice is in force, further notices may be given modifying its effect—
(a) by lifting its application from stated parts of New Zealand; or
(b) in the case of an epidemic notice that applies to only stated parts of New Zealand,—
(i) by extending its application to other stated parts of New Zealand; or
(ii)by extending its application to the whole of New Zealand.

(7) After the notice expires, a new notice can be given in respect of the same disease."

3 "Alert Level 4 — Lockdown

Likely that disease is not contained.

Risk assessment

Community transmission is occurring.
Widespread outbreaks and new clusters.

Range of measures (can be applied locally or nationally)

People instructed to stay at home (in their bubble) other than for essential personal movement.
Safe recreational activity is allowed in the local area.
Travel is severely limited.
All gatherings cancelled and all public venues closed.
Businesses closed except for essential services, such as supermarkets, pharmacies, clinics, petrol stations, and lifeline utilities.
Educational facilities closed.
Rationing of supplies and requisitioning of facilities possible.
Reprioritisation of healthcare services."

Original Text Source:

Original Audio and Video Source;

Text Note: Lightly modified to reflect the as delivered audio and American Standard English conventions.

Audio Note: Ripped from the video and digitally enhanced for clarity and rhetorical force.

See also: PM Adern's Master Class in Crisis Rhetoric (@ The Conversation)

Page Updated: 4/29/20

U.S. Copyright Status: Text = Used with permission under the Crown copyright terms found here. Audio and Video = Office of the Clerk/Parliamentary Service. Licensed by the Clerk of the House of Representatives and/or the Parliamentary Corporation on behalf of Parliamentary Service for re-use under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International licence. Full licence available at

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