Protecting New Zealand forests
We need to look after our forests in a way that meets our current and future needs, and we need to manage the many biosecurity and climate-related threats to our forests. Discover some of the ways we can protect our forests.
On this page:
- The importance of sustainable forestry
- Biosecurity for New Zealand's forests
- Pests and diseases threaten forest health
- Research and innovation in New Zealand forestry
Sustainable forest management is increasingly important to ensure the long-term future of New Zealand's forests and to meet a growing market demand for sustainably produced timber.
New Zealand monitors the sustainability of our forest management through an international system called the Montréal Process.
Sustainable indigenous forestry
Te Uru Rākau manages the sustainable harvesting of indigenous forests in New Zealand. To harvest or mill indigenous forest, owners usually need to have a Sustainable Forest Management Plan or permit.
Te Uru Rākau also regulates the harvesting, milling and export of swamp kauri (kauri timber that has been buried and preserved in what used to be swamps).
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There are a number of threats to our forests and surrounding landscapes that need to be managed. Te Uru Rākau works closely with Biosecurity New Zealand, who takes the lead in the management of these threats.
The threat of wilding conifers
Wilding conifers are trees that:
- produce cones instead of flowers
- aren’t native to New Zealand
- begin growing through natural spread (seeds are self-sown by the wind)
- live outside managed conifer plantations like pine and fir forests.
When they’re self-sown and unmanaged, these conifers are a major threat. They can quickly infest farmland and native ecosystems, out-competing native plants and wildlife for light and water, and spoiling natural landscapes.
There are programmes and partnerships in place to stop these trees from spreading.
There are many threats offshore that could cause significant damage to our forests. Protecting trees from these biosecurity threats is essential not only for our precious natural environment but also for the continuing health of our primary industries.
Where pests and pathogens have taken a foothold in our country, they’ve caused serious economic losses (for example, the PSA virus in kiwifruit, and Mycoplasma bovis in cows) along with serious damage to our taonga. The pathogen that causes kauri dieback disease can be spread by just a pinhead of soil. The disease threatens the magnificent species with extinction.
Biosecurity New Zealand has identified priority threats to New Zealand’s trees.
On a regional level, it’s important to note that regional councils each have a pest management strategy, and that pest species can differ between regions. Contact your council for information specific to your region to make sure you know how to protect your forest.
Pest animals like possums, goats, deer, and pigs also have a big impact on our forests, easily destroying planted seedlings if not managed. Native forests, planted or regenerating, are especially affected by possums that browse on trees and seedlings and other pest animals eat seed crops of particular plants, leading to large-scale devastation. Pest animals can also kill indigenous birds and animals, destroy nesting sites, and deplete food sources for indigenous birds.
The New Zealand Farm Forestry Association (NZFFA) has a database of forest-specific pests known to be in New Zealand.
Forestry care partnership: the Government Industry Agreement
In 2015, the Government signed a landmark agreement with the Forest Owners Association. The Government Industry Agreement (GIA) creates an operating partnership to manage pests and diseases that could damage New Zealand's economy and environment.
The GIA details:
- what each party has to care for and maintain
- who funds certain activities, like biosecurity and forestry care
- how the parties will work together and make decisions.
The agreement is the first of its kind for the forestry sector in New Zealand.
The government funds research and innovation for New Zealand’s forests and industry.
- The Ministry of Primary Industries funds the Sustainable Land Management and Climate Change (SLMACC) Research programme, which helps the agriculture and forestry sectors with the challenges arising from climate change.
- SFF Futures is an investment programme from the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) designed to back new game-changing innovations across the food and fibre sectors, including forestry.
- The One Billion Trees Programme provides funding for the development of new ideas that support and/or improve the way we plant and grow trees and forests.