South Island Landless Natives Act 1906 (SILNA) Forests

In 1906, 4000 individuals of Māori descent received approximately 57 000 hectares of land under the South Island Landless Natives Act 1906 (SILNA). This land was transferred in response to calls for economic redress after land purchase agreements left some sections of the South Island Māori population with insufficient land to support themselves.

A survey of SILNA forest land was completed in 1999. This survey estimated (1) approximately 17 300 hectares of SILNA lands remain under some form of indigenous forest cover. These SILNA forests make up less than 0.03 percent of the country's indigenous forest estate, 1.6 percent of all privately owned indigenous forests and approximately 4 percent of Māori-owned indigenous forests. Approximately 5000 hectares of these forests are considered to have high conservation value.

In 2002, the Government initiated the SILNA forests policy to address the unsustainable management of SILNA forests, while recognising the history of these forests and the views of the owners. The policy promoted the sustainable management of SILNA forests on a voluntary basis through conservation protection or sustainable forest management under the Forests Act. A sum of $19.691 million (including GST) was originally allocated over seven years to implement the policy package. The initiatives included in the 2002 policy package were:

  • Extended voluntary moratorium of logging;
  • Funding for high priority conservation protection;
  • Assistance with sustainable forest management plan development;
  • Improved application and enforcement of the Resource Management Act 1991 through district plans, as it relates to indigenous forest logging – for regional and district councils; and
  • Controls on the export of unsustainably harvested timber from SILNA forests, through an amendment of the Forests Act.

(1) This estimate did not include two SILNA blocks, Toi Toi and Port Adventure, as they are subject to processes set out in the Ngai Tahu Claims Settlement Act 1998.

In 2009, following a Cabinet directive, the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry initiated a review of the policy to assess its effectiveness and recommend future policy options. John Ruru and Maggie Bayfield were appointed as the independent reviewers.

The Government considered the independent reviewers' report and accepted the major recommendations of the Review. The Government will continue with the sustainable forest management and conservation aspects of the 2002 SILNA policy for further five years or until the existing funding is exhausted. The Government organisations involved in SILNA policy –The Department of Conservation, Te Puni Kōkiri, Māori Land Court, and the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry have been charged with proactively promoting the key elements of the 2002 policy – negotiating conservation protection and developing Sustainable Forest Management Plans.

One of the key messages that came out of the review was the lack of communication between the government and SILNA forest owners, and the lack of communication between SILNA forest owners themselves. This webpage was established as a 'one-stop-shop' for information for SILNA forest owners. It is a joint-initiative between the Department of Conservation, Te Puni Kōkiri, the Māori Land Court and the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry.

As part of the review process, The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry released a discussion document SILNA Forests: Review of the 2002 Policy and the Implementation Package and held a series of hui, in conjunction with submissions, around the South Island and Wellington in August and September 2009.

You can read the full independent reviewers' report and discussion document below.

1. Sustainable Forest Management

To recognise the history, SILNA forests are exempt from some of the provisions of Part 3A of the Forests Act. This means SILNA owners can harvest their forests without a sustainable forest management plan or permit, subject to the provisions of the Resource Management Act 1991. However, harvesting without a sustainable forest management plan or permit means the resulting timber can only be sold on the domestic market. To export their timber, SILNA owners must bring their forests under a sustainable forest management plan or permit.

Sustainable forest management is a selective logging regime and replicates the natural processes within an indigenous forest system. A sustainable forest management plan or permit enables landowners to receive an ongoing income stream, while the natural values within the block are maintained. The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry will provide assistance to SILNA forest owners who wish to develop sustainable forest management plans for their forests. This assistance is provided because the cost of sustainable forest management plan preparation is one of the major hurdles that prevent landowners moving to sustainable harvesting.

More information about sustainable management of indigenous forestry is available here.

2. Conservation Covenants under the Nature Heritage Fund

Under the 2002 policy, voluntary conservation protection was offered to SILNA owners of high priority forests. Voluntary conservation protection is through conservation covenants under section 27 of the Conservation Act 1987 and section 77 of the Reserves Act 1977.

Owners are required to manage the land for conservation purposes and allow public access. They retain all ownership rights and interests in any income generated from the commercial uses of the land, including tourism operations undertaken in accordance with the purposes and objectives of the conservation covenant. High priority has been given by Government to named SILNA forest blocks: Tautuku-Waikawa block on the southeast Otago coast, West Rowallan and two Waitutu independent blocks on the Southland coast. Conservation protection is offered to SILNA forests that are assessed as high priority in the first instance. However, applications from SILNA owners in other areas will also be considered.

See the Nature Heritage Fund for more information about covenanting your SILNA forest.

The following resources are currently available to Māori landowners.

There are other options available to landowners wishing to improve the biodiversity of their land through covenant:

  • Nga Whenua Rahui (DOC) provides funds to help protect indigenous ecosystems on Māori Land and administers the Matauranga Kura Taiao fund.
  • The Nature Heritage Fund (DOC) is an independent contestable fund available to all privately owned land with a high biodiversity/ ecological value. Funds have been set aside solely for SILNA forest owners, as discussed in the conservation covenants section above. For further information refer to
  • The Biodiversity Advice Fund (DOC) focuses on information and advice to land managers. It funds projects which inspire landholders or groups to better protect indigenous species on their land, such as workshops, field-days, and publications.
  • The Biodiversity Condition Fund (DOC) aims to improve and maintain the condition of areas of indigenous vegetation, species and habitats. The fund seeks to broaden community effort in the management of indigenous biodiversity. Suitable projects may include fencing or pest control on private land.
  • The Queen Elizabeth National Trust (NGO) helps private landowners in New Zealand to protect significant natural and cultural features on their land through open space covenants in perpetuity.

This area is for SILNA forest owners to post news items and upcoming events.

If you would like to advertise something to other SILNA owners, please email your message to

Date posted Event Location Contact for more information
6-Dec-2010 New SILNA ‘one stop shop’ website is launched N/A


Last Updated: 02 May 2012

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