On this page
- Forestry and the rules for the ETS
- Two aspects of forest land eligibility in the ETS
- Size and cover requirements for ETS forest land
- ETS forest land eligibility based on when and where the forest was established
- Pre-1990 forest land
- Post-1989 forest land
- Different kinds of post-1989 forest land: standard forestry and permanent forestry
- Responsibilities for post-1989 forest land in the ETS
- Tree weeds and the ETS
- Forest land not covered by ETS rules
If you're thinking about applying to register in the ETS, you'll need to work out if your forest is eligible. You may earn or have to pay (surrender) New Zealand Units (NZUs or units) if you register with eligible forest land.
If you're planning to deforest your land, you'll need to find out if any of the rules in the ETS apply to you. You may be liable to pay units after deforesting certain kinds of forest.
Some kinds of forest are not covered by the rules for the ETS. They are not eligible to enter the ETS.
We’ll explain how to identify the different kinds of forest land in the ETS below on this web page.
When working out how the ETS and its rules apply to your forest, there are 2 aspects to consider.
- Requirements that define "forest land" in the ETS based on the species present, and for forest size and crown cover
- Rules that decide what sort of ETS forest land it is, based on when it was planted or established and what was on the land before
If you can't work out if the ETS rules apply to your land, consider hiring and asking a consultant for advice. They can also help you with other ETS tasks, such as registering.
To qualify as forest land in the ETS, the forest must:
- cover at least 1 hectare in area
- contain species that can reach at least 5 metres in height when mature in that location
- have (or be expected to reach) crown cover of more than 30% in each hectare
- be at least (or expected to reach) 30 metres across on average.
You can register in the ETS if your forest is not yet mature. The forest must be likely to reach these size requirements in future.
If the land is harvested
Forest land that is harvested is still considered forest land if:
- it will be replanted or seeded naturally with forest species within 4 years of harvesting
- it will meet certain stocking requirements when replanted, and
- the land isn't converted to another use, such as pasture.
Other types of trees not in the ETS
The ETS excludes other types of trees that aren't considered forest species under ETS rules, such as:
- fruit and nut trees that are managed as food crops
- shelter belts (less than 30 metres wide on average, unless they join onto other forest land)
- small areas of trees (less than 1 hectare) more than 15 metres from adjacent forest.
There are 2 main kinds of forest land in the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS):
- pre-1990 forest land and
- post-1989 forest land.
If you have pre-1990 forest land you cannot register this in the ETS to earn units. If you deforest this land you may have to pay units for this deforestation.
If you have post-1989 forest land, you can choose to register in the ETS with this land. You’ll have options for how this land enters the ETS when you register this land in the ETS. How you register determines:
- when and if you can earn units for this land
- whether you need to pay (surrender) units if you harvest the land.
If your post-1989 forest land is not registered in the ETS, you will not:
- earn units for this land
- have to pay units for harvesting or deforesting.
The next sections will explain how to find out if your land is pre-1990 or post-1989 forest land.
To be considered pre-1990 forest land, the forest must meet the ETS definition of forest land on these dates:
- 31 December 1989 and can be native and/or exotic forest species, and
- 31 December 2007 and the forest must contain mostly exotic tree species.
Land that was native or exotic forest on 31 December 1989 and was mainly native forest on 31 December 2007 is not pre-1990 forest land. It is not covered by the ETS.
Pre-1990 forest land and ETS rules
You cannot earn units for this type of forest.
If you plan to deforest pre-1990 forest land, you must either:
- let us know within 20 working days once the land is deforested, and in the following calendar year, prepare and submit an emissions return before 31 March and pay any units owing, or
- apply in advance to plant another forest to replace it (pre-1990 offsetting land), or
- apply for permission to clear the land without having to pay units – this is called an "exemption" and is only available in certain limited situations.
Post-1989 forest land includes:
- regenerating and planted native (indigenous) forest
- forests of exotic tree species
- mixed-species forest.
To be considered post-1989 forest land, the forest must meet the ETS definition of forest land above on this web page.
If you are thinking about registering in the ETS with post-1989 forest land, you also need to keep in mind:
- the rules for post-1989 forest land eligibility
- there are two different kinds of post-1989 forest land, standard and permanent forestry. What kind of land it is depends on when the land entered the ETS, and decisions made when you registered.
We’ll explain more about this in the next two sections.
Rules for post-1989 forest land eligibility
The trees on post-1989 forest land are planted or first established after 31 December 1989. The history of the land after 1989 also plays a part in determining if the land is post-1989 forest land.
The forest may be post-1989 forest land if it was established onto land with a history that meets one of the following conditions.
- The land was not forest land on 31 December 1989.
- The land was forest land on 31 December 1989 and was deforested between 1 January 1990 and 31 December 2007 inclusive.
- The land was originally pre-1990 forest land that was deforested after 31 December 2007. Any units owing as a result were paid in full.
- The land was pre-1990 forest land that was deforested after 31 December 2012. It was replaced at the time under an application to plant a replacement forest elsewhere (pre-1990 offsetting forest land).
- The land was planted for offsetting deforestation of pre-1990 forest land elsewhere. It was deforested after 31 December 2012, and any units owing for deforesting the land paid.
- The land was originally pre-1990 forest land. The owners successfully applied for an exemption to deforest without any liability to pay units. The owners have since surrendered the units that would have been owed without the exemption.
- The land was originally pre-1990 forest land. The owners successfully applied for an exemption to deforest without any liability to pay units. The land was deforested more than 8 years ago and was not forested during this time.
If the land is presently registered in the ETS as any type of offsetting forest land, it cannot enter the ETS as post-1989 forest land. This does not exclude land that was previously offsetting land and subsequently deforested, as above.
However if you applied successfully after 1 January 2023 to plant forest to offset emissions from deforesting post-1989 and forest land, and you planted too much, some of this land may be decommissioned and enter the ETS as post-1989 forest land.
From 1 January 2023 onwards, when you apply to register you will decide whether your post-1989 forest land will enter the ETS as:
- standard forestry
- permanent forestry
- a combination of standard and permanent forestry for different areas across your forest land.
Standard and permanent forestry must meet the same eligibility criteria for post-1989 forest land above. However, there are important differences in what you’ve committed to for these kinds of land once they are in the ETS. We’ll explain this next.