Indigenous forestry

New Zealand's native forests have economic, environmental, cultural and recreational value. Although most of New Zealand's indigenous forests are on conservation land, a significant portion is privately-owned. Find out about indigenous forestry and how it's managed.


Quick facts

  • There are 6.4 million hectares of native forest in New Zealand.
  • 5.2 million hectares – about 24% of our total land area – is protected conservation land.
  • 1.2 million hectares of indigenous forestry land is privately owned.
  • About a third of privately-owned indigenous forestry is suitable for sustainable harvesting.
  • Species commonly harvested include red beech, silver beech, rimu, tōtara and tawa.

Sustainable management of forests

MPI sets harvest levels and monitors and audits harvesting activity in indigenous forests under sustainable management guidelines.

  • Management systems must ensure forests can continue to provide a full range of products and amenities while retaining their natural values.
  • Harvest rates must be set at sustainable levels.
  • Forests' unique plant and animal life, and their ability to replenish through natural means, must be protected through control of pests and weeds, protection of the soil and maintenance of water quality.

All work must be done in line with the Forests Act 1949 and its relevant amendments.

View the indigenous forestry standards and guidelines [PDF, 1.4 MB]

In 2013, KPMG carried out an economic assessment on our behalf. Their aim was to value New Zealand's privately-owned indigenous forests based on a sustainable forest management approach.

Read the indicative value of New Zealand's privately owned indigenous forests report  [PDF, 661 KB]

The Forests Act

The harvesting, milling and exporting of indigenous timber is managed under the Forests Act 1949. Under the Act, native timber can only be taken from forests in a way that maintains forest cover and ecological balance.

Part 3A of the Act discourages unsustainable harvesting and clearance of private indigenous forests and provides for their sustainable management. It gives owners options for managing their forests to harvest and mill timber. It also places controls on the milling and exporting of indigenous timber.

MPI is responsible for administering the Act

MPI takes its responsibilities for effectively monitoring and enforcing the Forests Act seriously. We:

  • monitor and audit milling and export activities
  • maintain indigenous forestry statistics
  • ensure compliance with export and sawmilling controls
  • ensure compliance with sustainable forest management provisions.

The Forests Act only allows indigenous timber to be milled at registered sawmills. Milled timber must come from a source approved under the Forests Act.

Sawmills are regularly inspected by MPI.

Penalties for breaching the Act

It is a serious offence to mill indigenous timber at an unregistered sawmill or to mill without approval under the Forests Act.

Penalties include fines of up to $200,000 on conviction for breaching these requirements.

Find out more

Who to contact

If you have questions about the information on this page, email indigenous.forestry@mpi.govt.nz.

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