Importance of New Zealand forests
The importance of forests to New Zealand goes well beyond commercial timber production. New Zealand’s forests have spiritual, social, cultural, environmental, and economic importance.
On this page:
- Forests are important for New Zealand's environment
- Importance of forests to New Zealand society
- Forests contribute $6 billion a year to New Zealand's economy
- Māori and forests
- The future of New Zealand's forests
Forests are a carbon sink. This means the trees absorb carbon dioxide as they grow and store it in their roots, leaves, branches, and trunks. This reduces the amount of greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere and helps mitigate climate change.
Not only do we depend on forests to regulate the climate, we depend on them to clean our water and our air, and help manage erosion. Our forests sustain many different species of plants and animals, including many that are found only here in New Zealand.
Forests (particularly New Zealand's indigenous (native) forests, including national parks, scenic reserves, and other conservation areas) provide spaces for recreation, for adventure, for reflection, for time out, and for making memories.
Forests have special meaning for Māori and are an important part of our national identity.
We rely on sustainable forestry and its related wood processing industries to provide tens of thousands of jobs for New Zealanders, supporting our families and our regions.
Forestry exports are worth about $6 billion a year and provide 1.6% of our GDP (Gross Domestic Product). Forest products are New Zealand's third-largest export earner behind dairy and meat.
Our main markets for forest products are China, Australia, the Republic of Korea, and Japan. We are well set up to increase forestry exports, as many forests planted during the 1990s reach maturity.
Our native forests are popular tourist sites. For the year ended March 2018, 52% of all international tourists visited a national park, with tourists making up about 60% of all people using the Great Walks.
Overseas investment in forestry
High-quality investment in forestry can bring benefits for New Zealanders.
If you are overseas and would like to invest in forestry in New Zealand, you can apply for consent through the Overseas Investment Office (OIO) within Land Information New Zealand (LINZ).
The consent process applies to buying or leasing land for forestry purposes (including converting farmland to forestry) or buying forestry rights. There are 3 consent types available.
Overseas investment in sensitive or significant assets in New Zealand is governed by the Overseas Investment Act 2005. This was updated through the Overseas Investment Amendment Act 2018 which came into force on 22 October 2018.
Māori connections to forestry and forest land in New Zealand are cultural and spiritual, as well as commercial.
Māori interests in plantation forestry are steadily increasing, and provide an option for the protection of lands, as well as employment and economic benefits.
As the world moves away from dependence on fossil fuels towards a more sustainable, biological-based economy, forestry will become even more important as a major producer of sustainable and renewable resources for New Zealand. The role they play in our society and economy will become even more crucial.
New technologies (from growing trees to harvesting, to end-use products) will also create a range of opportunities to adapt and rethink the way commercial and non-commercial forestry operates.
Te Uru Rākau is addressing the future of forestry in New Zealand by developing a forest strategy.