Deforesting pre-1990 forest land
You must tell MPI if you deforest pre-1990 forest land that hasn't been granted an exemption or offset. You also need to pay for any emissions you create through deforesting the land. Follow our step-by-step process to make sure you meet your obligations.
Deforestation in the ETS
If you deforest pre-1990 forest land that hasn't been granted an exemption or offset, you must tell us and pay for any emissions you create through deforesting the land. To do this, you must submit an emissions return between 1 January and 31 March in the year following deforestation. Follow our step-by-step process to make sure you meet your obligations.
Deforestation has a specific meaning in the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS). There are two situations when land is considered deforested after forest is cleared.
- The forest is removed and the land is converted or used for something else. For example, the land is developed for pasture, housing, or another non-forestry use.
- The land is not replanted or regenerated with forest species that meet certain criteria within set timeframes.
Removing pre-1990 forest is not deforestation in some circumstances, if:
- you replant the forest or allow forest to regenerate, and this new forest meets the criteria below for stocking and growth thresholds, or
- you are only deforesting small areas of land up to 2 hectares in any mandatory emissions return period (the current period is 1 January 2018 to 31 December 2022, the next is 1 January 2023 to 31 December 2025), or
- you are clearing land for best practice forest management (see section 179A(1)(a) of the Climate Change Response Act), or
- you have an exemption that allows you to remove your forest without any obligations, or
- we have approved your application for planting an equivalent forest elsewhere (offsetting forest land).
Who has obligations when deforesting pre-1990 forest land
When pre-1990 land is deforested, usually the person(s) who owned the land at the time must notify us and submit an emissions return.
In some circumstances, a person who didn’t own the land may be responsible. This happens if
- the landowner made a formal arrangement to give the right to decide to deforest to someone else, and
- the landowner also had no control over the decision to deforest.
You are responsible even if you did not voluntarily register your forest into the ETS.
If the land was sold recently
If pre-1990 forest land is deforested before it is transferred to new ownership, the former land owner must meet the obligations for deforestation. They must notify us about the deforestation and submit an emissions return.
If pre-1990 forest land is transferred while it is temporarily cleared, the new owner is responsible for the deforestation obligations if:
- they do not replant, or
- they replant but the forest will not meet the required stocking and growth thresholds in time, or
- the land does not regenerate naturally as forest to the required stocking and growth thresholds within set timeframes.
Steps for meeting your obligations for deforesting pre-1990 forest land
Step 1: Open a holding account
Create an account with the New Zealand Emission Trading Register (NZETR).
When you deforest pre-1990 forest land, you'll need to pay New Zealand Units (NZUs) to the government. These are also known as units or carbon credits. They are stored and transferred in the New Zealand Emission Trading Register (NZETR). To pay units, you'll need an NZETR account, if you don’t already have one. The account name must include the correct legal names of all individuals responsible for the forest that was removed. These people will be participants in the ETS.
Step 2: Notify MPI
You must tell MPI when you are deforesting pre-1990 forest.
You must notify MPI within 20 working days of deforesting pre-1990 forest land, unless the land has been granted an exemption or been offset. This applies to forest landowners and third parties who have deforestation rights.
You'll need to complete a notification of deforestation form. You can submit your form online or post it to us.
To use MPI's ETS online transaction system, you must:
- be registered with the government online identification service RealMe
- set up a ETS online system login.
If you don't have a RealMe account, you'll be given the chance to set one up when you go to the ETS online system login.
Notify MPI by post
Step 3: Calculate emissions
Determine how much carbon has been released by deforesting your land.
Deforestation emissions are calculated based on a forest's carbon stocks at the time it is cleared. Use the look-up tables to calculate this amount. A guide is available to help you use the tables.
Download the guide to using look-up tables [PDF, 2.7 MB]
Download the look-up tables for pre-1990 forest [PDF, 458 KB]
Step 4: File an emissions return
Submit a return showing how many units you owe for deforestation.
The deforestation emissions return calculates how many NZUs you owe based on the amount of carbon released by deforestation. An emissions return can only cover a single calendar year.
Download the pre-1990 deforestation emissions return [PDF, 747 KB]
You will need to attach a shapefile (an electronic file used in digital mapping) of the deforested land with your return.
Emissions returns must be submitted to MPI between 1 January and 31 March in the year immediately following deforestation.
Step 5: Pay units
Units must be paid by 31 May in the year immediately following deforestation.
Units must be paid to the government through your NZETR holding account. The Environmental Protection Authority will tell you how to do this once your emissions return has been processed.
Step 6: Keep MPI up to date
Once deforestation is complete, you must tell MPI.
Once you have completed these steps and all deforestation is complete, you must let us know. If you have no other land registered in the ETS, for example post-1989 land, you are no longer a participant in the ETS. You must deregister using the deregistration form.
Download the Pre-1990 participant deregistration form [PDF, 312 KB]
If you deforest another area of pre-1990 forest land in the future you will need to register again in the ETS and follow the same process.
Forest land that has been cleared will be classified as deforested if it doesn't meet specific stocking and growth thresholds 4, 10, and 20 years after clearance.
Four years after clearing
Four years after clearing, the land must have either:
- at least 500 stems a hectare of exotic forest species growing, or
- been replanted with at least 100 stems a hectare of willow or poplar species (used to manage soil erosion), or
- predominantly regenerated indigenous forest species, growing at a rate that suggests the land is likely to be forest within 10 years.
Ten years after clearing
Ten years after clearing, the land must have:
- predominantly exotic species growing, with a tree cover of at least 30% from trees that have reached at least 5 metres high, or
- predominantly indigenous forest species growing that meet the definition of forest land under the ETS.
20 years after clearing
20 years after clearing, the land must have predominantly indigenous forest species growing and at least 30% of trees 5 metres high.
The date of deforestation is needed because you must notify us within 20 working days of deforestation occurring and submit an emissions return the following year between 1 January and 31 March.
If the forest was cleared and converted to another land use, the date of deforestation is the date in which conversion begins.
When forest land is deforested by not being replanted or regenerated to the required stocking and growth thresholds, the date of deforestation is the date it fails to meet these thresholds, i.e. 4, 10 or 20 years after clearing.
How to request an emissions ruling
Emissions rulings provide an official determination on matters relating to the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS). They are often used to check if land would be eligible for registration as post-1989 forest land if it was planted. This means that you can check eligibility before making the investment.
They can also be used to determine:
- if pre-1990 deforestation would occur if an area of forest was cleared
- how ETS regulations would apply in specific circumstances.
Emissions ruling fees
You need to pay a fee to apply for an emissions ruling. The amount of the fee is on the application form. The fee covers up to 4 hours of work on the application. If more time is needed to make a ruling, you will be charged more.
Processing time for emissions rulings
There is no set timeframe for Te Uru Rākau – New Zealand Forest Service to issue an emissions ruling outcome. It usually takes us between 4 and 8 months.
Penalties and offences
You may face a penalty, fine, or conviction if you:
- don't file a mandatory emission return by the due date
- have calculated emissions or removals incorrectly in your emissions return
- are late paying units that you owe.
Who to contact
If you have questions about deforestation:
- email firstname.lastname@example.org
- call 0800 CLIMATE (0800 25 46 28) and select option 2.