Boaties who are isolating in the Hauraki Gulf are seeking clarification about whether they are breaking the rules.

A new Health Notice issued yesterday made it clear that New Zealanders could not go surfing, fishing, swimming or boating while alert level 4 was in place.

It also said New Zealanders had to be isolated in their current place of residence. For a group of people, their current or usual place of residence is their boat.

Mike Duke, who is anchored in a 46-foot launch off Waiheke Island, said he came out on the water on the day before the lockdown was imposed. He has lent his house on land to his son-in-law, who has low immunity.

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Because he spent around 25 days a month at sea, he felt that his launch was his usual place of residence. But he was now uncertain where he stood after the rules were firmed up.

"It's hard to get a clear read on if this is okay or even legal," he said. "We're not leaving our home to do it."

He believed that more than a hundred boaties in the Hauraki Gulf would be in the same position.

The Health Notice does not directly address the issue, but says that if a residence is mobile it should be kept "in the same general location".

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Health told the Herald it was acceptable to stay aboard a boat if it was someone's permanent residence as long as it remained berthed.

Duke said he had been following the self-isolation guidelines and had not been going ashore for groceries or moving around the Hauraki Gulf. The three-cabin launch had 2000 litres of fuel and 1000 litres of water to allow for a long isolation.

"We're not using it like a holiday, we've pretty much stayed across two or three different bays depending on the wind.

"We are getting a bit low on beer, but we have everything we need for another couple of weeks. I've been fishing out of the dinghy, so we've caught fish."

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He had gone ashore at Ponui Island for exercise, taking care to only go on empty beaches.

Before the ministry clarified the lockdown rules, New Zealand police said that people isolating on boats needed to stay in them for the entire lockdown period.

That came after a number of people had anchored off Great Barrier Island and had been going ashore on shopping runs. That had frustrated locals on the island, who said their supermarkets were getting emptied out.

Duke said he had witnessed some bad behaviour on the water during lockdown. In one case, a boatie had gone ashore at privately-owned Rotoroa Island with a dog - despite a clearly-signalled ban on dogs at the wildlife sanctuary.

He said the harbour was mostly empty, with no small boats or jet skis in sight.

"It is a strange atmosphere," he said. "It feels like everyone is hunkered down for bad weather because there's not people zooming around in their boats, just sitting quietly anchored."

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said this afternoon that most New Zealanders had complied with lockdown rules except for a few people "who could charitably be called idiots" - including a man who had filmed himself coughing on other shoppers at a supermarket in Christchurch.

Police also called surfers out of the water and fined them at Piha Beach in Auckland this morning.

The new Health Notice sets out:

• Everyone in New Zealand is to be isolated or quarantined at their current place of residence except as permitted for essential personal movement;

• Exercise is to be done in an outdoor place that can be readily accessed from home and 2-metre physical distancing must be maintained;

• Recreation and exercise does not involve swimming, water-based activities (for example, surfing or boating), hunting, tramping, or other activities of a kind that expose participants to danger or may require search and rescue services;

• A child can leave the residence of one joint caregiver to visit or stay at the residence of another joint caregiver (and visit or stay at that residence) if there is a shared bubble arrangement;

• A person can leave their residence to visit or stay at another residence (and visit or stay at that residence) under a shared bubble arrangement if:

• One person lives alone in one, or both, of those residences; or

• Everyone in one of those residences is a vulnerable person.