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 Sustainable Forest Management

New Zealand’s indigenous timber resources are among the best managed in the world. Timber can be legally harvested from native forests on private land, but is subject to strict controls. Where timber is milled from natural forests, it must be produced sustainably as defined by the Forests Act (1949) as Amended (1993).

Sustainable forest management (SFM) is defined by New Zealand's Forests Act 1949 as "the management of an area of indigenous forests land in a way that maintains the ability of the forest on that land to continue to provide a full range of products and amenities in perpetuity while maintaining the forest's natural values".

The Forests Act recognises the many values of indigenous forests including flora and fauna, soil and water quality protection, amenity and commercial timber values. As such it envisages both the retention of forest area and maintenance or enhancement of indigenous forest values. The Forests Act also recognises the rights of landowners to obtain an economic return from a privately owned asset, yet identifies their responsibility to maintain a healthy forest and functioning ecosystem with the aim of achieving an appropriate balance between productive use and maintenance of forests' natural values.

This is achieved by:

  • Extensive research of forest values
  • Accurate mapping of the forest area and description of forest types, composition, structure, and timber volumes (forest inventory).
  • Limiting harvests to no more timber than will be replaced by natural growth
  • Ensuring harvests imitate natural forest processes
  • Requiring minimal impact harvesting technologies, and operational planning.
  • Registration on the Land Title
  • Inspections and monitoring
  • Adapting forest management in response to changes in; inventory, monitoring and new information (disease risks etc).

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) administers the provisions of the Forests Act. Trained specialist forest advisors within MPI manage the assessment and approvals necessary for SFM permits and plans, and other provisions for the logging and milling of indigenous timber. The provisions of the Forests Act apply to about one million hectares of private natural forests that remain available for timber production.

The Forests Act does not apply to planted indigenous forests.

Since 1993  the milling of all native timber has required MPI approval in order to be legal. This includes the milling of logs from both remnant ‘old-growth’ forest areas and from ‘second-growth’ forests including native trees that have regenerated on farms. This means that although much of the resource now found on farms has regenerated on previously cleared land, the sustainability requirements of the Forests Act still apply to the commercial harvesting and milling of native trees.

SFM Permits and Plans can be obtained. Landowners should contact MPI in the first instance. The process can be very time consuming and consequently getting the approvals in place well in advance of any planned or potential harvests operation is advised. Depending on a range of factors engaging a professional forestry consultant may or may not be necessary. Simple processes exist to enable the milling of salvaged native timber and quantities for ‘personal use’ (but the latter can not be sold).

Farm totara
New Zealand has extensive native beech forests
(Lake Daniels, Maruia Valley).

Consumers should have confidence in the sustainability credentials of native timber produced under MPI approved SFM Permit or Plans. MPI officially endorses the sustainability of native timber produced from private land under the provisions of the Forests Act. It recognises that promoting the development of the native timber industry not only provides a means for landowners to look after their native forests areas, but also involves a legal mechanism to ensure sustainable forest management. 



Disclaimer: While every effort is made to ensure the accuracy of the information provided on this site, Farm Forestry Timbers Society do not accept liability for any consequences arising from reliance on the information published. If readers have any doubts about acting on any articles they should seek confirming, professional advice.

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