On this page
- Where the rules for mapping forest land in the ETS come from
- Digital file format for mapping information
- General rules for forest land polygons
- What area to include
- Where to draw the outer boundary of forest land in the shapefile
- Adding shapefile attributes
- Shapefiles for other ETS transactions
- Submitting shapefiles with applications
TIP: Hire an expert
This web page is intended for people already familiar with using geographic information systems (GIS). If you aren’t experienced in GIS, and do not know how to create shapefiles (a digital mapping file format), we recommend hiring a forestry consultant or GIS consultant to complete this for you.
There is currently no online tool available for mapping land when applying to add new land into the ETS. You must create shapefiles outside of the ETS online system, Tupu-ake, and submit these.
All mapping information must be prepared in a certain way. This ensures:
- everyone involved in the ETS maps their land the same way
- calculations for emissions returns will be prepared consistently by everyone, as these are based on the area of land in the ETS
- the maps are a reliable legal record of forestry activities in the ETS.
The rules for mapping land in the ETS are published in the Geospatial Mapping Information Standard 2023.
If you are creating mapping information outside of Tupu-ake, this must be provided in a shapefile format.
- Your shapefile should include .shp, .shx, .dbf and .prj files.
- Your shapefile can optionally include other files that are typically within a shapefile, such as .sbn and .sbx files.
The shapefile must not include multi-part polygons. Multi-part polygons are multiple polygons that share a single, shared source of underlying attribute data.
All mapping information must use one of these projections, depending on the location:
- New Zealand Transverse Mercator Projection 2000
- Chatham Islands Transverse Mercator Projection 2000.
Make sure each mapped area in the shapefile is contained by a closed polygon. The starting point of each polygon must be in the same place as the end point.
You can map areas of forest with one polygon. You can also map a single area of forest using more than one polygon. This can be useful for mapping areas under different forest management, for example, or areas that contain different trees species.
Each polygon must cover an area of 1 hectare or more. Polygons mapping forest land must not overlap each other.
Each polygon must only contain eligible land. Polygons must contain an area that has (or had) a covering of trees that meets, or will meet, the size and cover requirements for forest land in the ETS. The forest contained within the polygon 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 likely to reach) crown cover of more than 30% in each hectare
- be at least (or likely to reach) an average width of 30 metres.
The polygon must only contain eligible post-1989 forest land. They must not include other kinds of forest, such as pre-1990 forest land or species of trees that are not eligible to enter the ETS.
If there are areas of land inside the polygon that are not eligible, you must map them out and remove them. However, you can leave small areas in if they are:
- less than 1 hectare in area
- 15 metres or less measured between tree crown edges.
You don’t need to map these out.
To locate the outer boundary of the forest in the shapefile, you could use:
- recent orthorectified satellite images or aerial photos as a guide
- measurements collected on site, such as GPS locations
- an existing shapefile that was prepared for other purposes, such as for forest management, as long as it meets the requirements in the standard.
The polygon must be mapped so that it shows where the boundary of the forest:
- is located, when mapping areas where mature trees are present
- would be located when trees are mature, if mapping immature trees.
Make sure you know which areas of land should be included and which should not be included.
Draw the edges of the forest land along the outer tree crown edge. If the forest being mapped borders onto another area of forest that isn’t being included, for example pre-1990 forest land, draw the line between these two areas of forest.
You don’t need to map the exact edge and curvature of every tree for forests with complex edges. You can use straight lines in the polygon to show the edge of the forest. However, the polygon edge must touch the forest edge every 15 metres or less. If using aerial photos or satellite images, take care that you don’t mistake shadows for the edge of the forest.
This rule also means that, optionally, small gaps in the forest along the edges can be included.
If the trees overlap onto someone else’s land, map up to the land boundary.
We acknowledge that forest owners can have agreements with neighbouring property owners and may knowingly plant trees over the boundary. However, these agreements are not recognised by the rules for the ETS, even if they are legally formalised. You can only apply to register forest on someone else’s land if you own the forest through a forestry right or leasehold that is registered on the land title, or a Crown conservation contract.
If you want to map forest that spans more than one land parcel, these parcels should have the same landowners registered on the property title.
If the trees have not reached maturity, place the polygon edge where the outer tree crown edge will be when they are fully grown. For example, for radiata pine, we suggest the following buffer for young forests:
- 4 metres for trees aged 0 to 5 years
- 3 metres for trees aged 6 to 10
- 2 metres for trees aged 11 to 15
- 1 metre for trees aged 16 to 20
- for trees over 20 years, map along the observed outer crown edge.
For all other ETS forest types (exotic hardwoods, exotic softwoods, Douglas Fir and regenerating native species), the buffers are:
- 4 metres for trees aged 0 to 7 years
- 3 metres for trees aged 8 to 15
- 2 metres for trees aged 16 to 23
- 1 metre for trees aged 24 to 30
- for trees over 30 years, map along the observed outer crown edge.
All shapefiles submitted with applications to add land to the ETS must include attribute data. If you don’t include the required information, you won’t be able to upload the shapefile to the online ETS system, Tupu-ake. If there are any issues with your shapefile, Tupu-ake will display error messages to let you know what’s needed. If you’re submitting shapefiles by email or by post, we won’t be able to upload the data for you.
The troubleshooting guide for resolving error messages when uploading shapefiles into Tupu-ake is available in the system. Use the search bar at the top of the screen in Tupu-ake to find the knowledge article "Error and warning message when applying to register or add land in to the ETS while uploading shapefiles".
Each polygon must include the carbon accounting area number (CAA number) that the polygon is assigned to. Each carbon accounting area must be numbered sequentially and uniquely using whole numbers starting at 1. If you previously registered land in the ETS, you cannot reuse numbers of older carbon accounting areas.
Shapefile schema for areas of clearing and replanting
You can upload information about areas of clearing and planting in your registered forest land into the ETS online system, Tupu-ake. This will ensure we have all of the necessary mapping information if you are using Tupu-ake to calculate your emissions return. You can add these areas by uploading a shapefile or through the online mapping tool.
If you’ve been asked to submit a shapefile for another reason, such as deforesting pre-1990 forest land, contact us using the details below for the latest on schema requirements.
There are a number of services for forestry in the ETS where you'll need to submit a shapefile to show the area of land involved. These include:
- registering in the ETS with post-1989 forest land and adding more land later
- removing part of a carbon accounting area from the ETS
- notifying us about certain changes, such as a transfer of who is responsible for the land in the ETS, or deforestation of pre-1990 forest land.
To submit shapefiles, you or your ETS representative can either:
- upload these with the online application, following the on-screen instructions in Tupu-ake
- email them to forestryETS@mpi.govt.nz
Uploading or sending large files
Let us know if you need to send us files larger than 25MB. We will then send you a link to a secure file upload system.
Once you’ve submitted your application, along with the shapefile, and any other supporting information, we will assess your application. You should provide as much supporting information as possible. This helps us to verify the land’s eligibility if the satellite images and aerial photos that we have are not enough.
You’ll need to provide evidence of planting if your forest has been planted in the last 5 years. If you don’t provide this, it is possible that this land in your application will be assessed to be ineligible. This is because young trees may not be visible in satellite images and aerial photos.
This assessment will include examining your shapefile against our database of satellite images and aerial photos to ensure the shapefile polygons contain areas of eligible land only. If we find land that is not eligible, it will be removed from the shapefile.