Exporting native (indigenous) timber and timber products

The Forests Amendment Act 1993 places restrictions on the types of timber and timber products that may be exported, and under what circumstances. Find out more about exporting indigenous timber.

Exports subject to strict rules

Export of indigenous timber and timber products is largely prohibited.

Export is permitted in limited circumstances – when the timber is:

  • unfinished, provided it meets certain requirements in the Act
  • classified as a 'finished and manufactured' timber product
  • a personal effect.

Exporting indigenous timber in contravention of the Forests Amendment Act is a serious offence. Penalties include fines of up to $200,000 on conviction.

Supreme Court decision relating to exports 

On 9 November 2018, the Supreme Court of New Zealand released a judgment that included interpretation of what a finished or manufactured indigenous timber product is (under section 2(1) of the Forests Act 1949) relating to exports (under section 67C(1)(b)).

This may affect some swamp kauri exports and other exports of indigenous products. It does not change the requirements for exporting personal effects or salvaged stump or root timber.

We have reviewed and updated existing documents:

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Raw and unfinished timber

Unfinished indigenous timber commodities may be exported only after obtaining approval from MPI.

There are 4 categories unfinished timber can be exported under:

  • any grade of sawn beech or rimu:
    • from a forest subject to a sustainable forest management (SFM) plan or permit
    • with a cross-sectional area per piece of no more than 30,000 square millimetres
  • stumps or roots:
    • of any species
    • either whole or sawn
    • salvaged from non-indigenous forest land or sourced from a forest subject to a sustainable forest management (SFM) plan or permit
  • tree fern trunks or fibre
    • taken from an SFM plan or permit forest, or
    • taken from indigenous forest land without an SFM plan or permit with the prior written approval of MPI, or
    • taken from non-indigenous forest land
  • indigenous logs or timber:
    • from a planted indigenous forest, or
    • from a forest covered by a Permanent Forests Sink Covenant.

For all exports, MPI must receive a notice of intention to export (ITE) a minimum of 10 days before export begins. Failure to provide an ITE is a breach of the Forests Act.

When we get an ITE, we'll check the timber source. A forestry officer will also do a visual inspection to ensure the timber being exported matches the description given in the ITE.

Finished and manufactured timber products

'Finished or manufactured indigenous timber products' may be exported without MPI approval.

A finished or manufactured indigenous timber product is any indigenous timber product:

  • that is a product in its own right
  • that has been finished or manufactured into its final form
  • is ready for immediate use or installation without any further modification
  • is a complete item that is ready to be used immediately or a component of an item that is a product that is ready to be installed.

Some items don't meet these requirements

Some items are not considered to be products covered for export under these criteria, including these (or similar items):

  • dressed or rough-sawn timber
  • mouldings
  • panelling
  • furniture blanks, joinery blanks or building blanks.

Spot checks

Exporters regularly contact MPI to assess whether their proposed exports comply with the Forests Act.

If contacted, a forestry officers will do a visual inspection to make an assessment about whether the product meets the definition of a finished or manufactured indigenous timber product.

Personal effects

Personal effects made from indigenous timber may be exported without MPI's approval.

Personal effects are small items intended only for personal use and usually worn or carried on the body – such as a wooden hand-mirror, key-ring or hairbrush.

Personal effects may also include indigenous timber items packed with the owner's belongings provided MPI is satisfied the owner is relocating overseas permanently.

If you are unsure whether your item fits this category, contact MPI for advice.

Clearance numbers needed from 1 August

From 1 August 2017, exporters of indigenous timber will need to have a single use clearance (or permit) number to clear their export entries through the Customs' system. The non-transferable permit number will be provided by MPI on the completed approved Intention to export (ITE) form. There is no change to the requirements which exporters must meet to get the required approval to export. This process change will facilitate the clearance of appropriately approved, lawful exports.

Exporting approved timber or timber products

If your export is covered under one of these categories, you may begin the export process.

Ensure you complete any additional documentation required as specified in the categories above.

Who to contact

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

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