Offsetting deforestation of pre-1990 forest land

You can apply to offset your deforestation of pre-1990 forest land by establishing an equivalent forest. If MPI approves your application, you may not need to pay carbon units for the deforestation. Find out how to apply and what criteria the offset forest must meet. From 2023, offsetting will also be available for post-1989 forests using averaging.

Pre-1990 forest offsetting - criteria for an offset forest

You can deforest pre-1990 forest without having to pay units if you create an equivalent forest (an offset forest) elsewhere. This offset forest must be approved by MPI before deforestation has occurred.

The proposed offset forest must:

  • be at least the same size as the area of land being deforested
  • be made up of an area or areas that are at least 1 hectare in size, with an average width of at least 30 metres
  • comply with section 186B of the Climate Change Response Act.

Climate Change Response Act 2002 – Section 186B – NZ Legislation

MPI must be satisfied that the offset forest is likely to:

  • contain the same amount of carbon as was in the pre-1990 forest land at the time of clearing, within the usual rotation period of the forest species of the pre-1990 forest land, and
  • become forest land before the pre-1990 forest land is deforested.

Our fact sheet tells you more about forest land offsetting and your obligations.

Download the offsetting deforestation of pre-1990 forest fact sheet [PDF, 250 KB]

Applying for forest land offsetting

You'll need send us a completed pre-1990 forest offsetting application, along with:

  • your carbon equivalence calculation (using the look-up tables)
  • a map of the offset forest land and pre-1990 forest land in shapefiles (an electronic file type used in digital mapping)
  • the proposed planting details.

Download the pre-1990 forest land offsetting form [PDF, 441 KB]

Calculating carbon equivalence

The offset forest must store the same amount of carbon as the pre-1990 forest land within the usual rotation period for the forest type. This is known as carbon equivalence. You can calculate the area of offset forest that you will need for carbon equivalence using the usual rotation periods and forest look-up tables.

Follow these steps:

  1. Calculate the emissions from clearing your pre-1990 forest land (at the age of clearing) using the pre-1990 forest land look-up tables.
  2. Find the usual rotation period for forest species of the pre-1990 forest land in the table below.
  3. Find the carbon associated with the offset forest at the usual rotation age (from step 2) using the post-1989 forest land look-up tables.
  4. Calculate the area of offsetting forest land that you will need by dividing the emissions from the original forest (total from step 1) by the carbon stock that the offset forest would store in the usual rotation period (total from 3). This tells you how many hectares your offset forest needs to be to store the same amount of carbon as the original forest.
  5. Check that the offset forest is at least the same size as the original pre-1990 forest land. 

Pre-1990 forest look-up tables [PDF, 458 KB]

Tables of carbon stock per hectare for post-1989 forest land – NZ Legislation

Usual rotation periods

Forest type Description Usual rotation period (years)
Pinus radiata Predominant species is Pinus radiata 28
Douglas fir Predominant species is Douglas fir 40
Exotic softwood Predominant species is exotic softwood 45
Exotic hardwood (pulp logs) Forest grown on short rotation for producing pulp logs 15
Exotic hardwood (saw logs) Forest is grown for saw logs 30

Offsetting declaration form

If your application is approved, the offsetting forest land must become forest land before you deforest the pre-1990 forest land that is being offset. Once the offsetting forest land becomes forest land the owner of the pre-1990 forest land must submit an offsetting declaration form.

Offsetting declaration form [PDF, 254 KB]

Do you need to complete a deforestation emissions return?

If your pre-1990 offsetting application has been approved, you don’t need to notify Te Uru Rākau when you deforest the area and you don’t need to complete an emissions return for the deforested area.

Find out more

Climate Change (Forestry Sector) Regulations 2008 – NZ Legislation

Climate Change Response Act 2002 – NZ Legislation

Who to contact

If you have any questions about deforestation:

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