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Northland Totara Working Group

As in many other regions of New Zealand, totara is a prominent feature of the rural Northland pastoral landscape typically regenerating on erosion-prone pastoral hill country as well as along riparian margins. Sometimes referred to as farm-totara, it colonises poor pastures and is relatively unpalatable to grazing stock. It regenerates so prolifically in these pastoral landscapes that many landowners have regarded it as a weed. However, over the last century or more, substantial areas of dense second-growth totara-dominated stands have developed with the potential to be managed as a sustainable resource to complement existing pastoral farming land use.

The Northland Totara Working Group (NTWG) was established in 2005 to promote the management and support the research of naturally-regenerating totara trees on farms for multiple purposes including sustainable timber-production and a wide range of environmental benefits. The group is represented by a wide range of stakeholders in Northland including Tane’s Tree Trust, the New Zealand Landcare Trust, landowners, New Zealand Farm Forestry Association, the District and Regional councils in Northland, wood millers and processors, research providers including Scion, and representatives of the Ministry for Primary Industries. A database of interested people (more than 250 nationally) is maintained.


The NTWG has five broad objectives:

  • Quantify the resource of naturally-regenerating totara.
  • Demonstrate the growth response of naturally-regenerating and planted totara to silvicultural treatment (thinning and pruning).
  • Determine wood qualities and potential uses of farm-grown trees.
  • Investigate the feasibility of developing a supply chain from resource to market.
  • Identify and overcome hindrances to sustainable management of naturally-regenerating and plantation totara.

The NTWG has completed many projects over the last decade and has several projects currently underway aimed at addressing many of these objectives.

Completed projects

A number of major projects managed and promoted by NTWG have been undertaken and completed with links to further information and outputs available on TTT website. These projects include:

  • An inventory of the resource focussing on the Whangaoroa catchment of the Far North including developing methods for estimating the area of regenerating totara and determining tree quality and size (Kennedy 2007).
  • Establishment of Permanent Sample Plots and extensive silvicultural trials in three regions throughout Northland (Bergin and Kimberley 2008; 2010; Quinlan et al. 2013).
  • An investigation of factors influencing natural regeneration of totara on grazed hill country in Northland (Bergin and Kimberley 2003).
  • Developing methods for quantifying the resource of totara at a farm level (Bergin 2009).
  • Preliminary evaluation of timber properties (Cown et al. 2009; McKinley 2008).
  • A survey on current timber uses, wood quality, value and market potential including perceptions of users and processors of wood from farm grown totara (Quinlan 2011).

For further details on each of these projects please refer to the Projects section of this website. Outputs include peer-reviewed scientific papers, technical reports, articles, several conference papers, NTWG newsletters, workshops and community field days.

Current projects

The NTWG in collaboration with partners have a number of current areas of investigation. These include:

  • Totara Industry Pilot (TIP) Project. Exploring the business case for the regional totara industry, visit the TIP website and see the full summary report here.
  • Farm-totara and the New Zealand Building Code see the latest report here.
  • Extending silivicultural trials to a wider range of forest types.
  • Management of totara-dominant riparian areas in intensively farmed hill country.
  • Evaluating how Sustainable Management Plans and Permits under the Forest Act apply to the farm-grown totara resource.
  • Provision of logs for milling and processors for wood quality testing and utilisation studies.
  • Utilisation studies of farm-totara including market research.
  • Evaluating the feasibility of a sustainable supply of farm-totara from resource to consumer.

For further details on each of these projects please refer to the Projects section of this website.

Publications and reports

There are a wide range of outputs from the work of the NTWG and TTT relating to research and management of naturally regenerating totara on farmland in Northland, and of related work from collaborators and others as listed below. Many of these will become available from this website as PDFs or links as the TTT Indigenous Forestry Reference Database is developed.

  • Bergin, D.O. 2001: Growth and management of planted and regenerating stands of Podocarpus totara D.Don. PhD thesis, Univeristy of Waikato. 316p.
  • Bergin, D.O. 2003: Totara establishment, growth and management. New Zealand Indigenous Tree Bulletin No. 1. New Zealand Forest Research Institute. 40p.
  • Bergin, D.O.; Kimberley, M.O. 2003: Growth and yield of totara in planted stands. New Zealand Journal of Forestry Science 33(2): 244-264.
  • Bergin, D. O. 2007: Establishment of silvicultural trials in naturally-regenerating stands of totara on farmland, Northland, New Zealand. Progress report for the Northland Totara Working Group. Contract Report 12565 (unpubl.). Scion, Rotorua. 21p.
  • Bergin, D. O. 2008: Silvicultural trials and wood quality studies with naturally-regenerating stands of totara stands, Northland, New Zealand. Second Year Progress Report for the Northland Totara Working Group. Contract Report (unpubl.). Scion, Rotorua. 21p.
  • Bergin, D. 2009: Assessing regenerating totara on the farm. A preliminary guide for landowners in Northland. Contract Report for the Northland Regional Council (Envirolink 516-NLRC). Contract Report (unpubl.). Scion, Rotorua. 27p.
  • Bergin, D.; Kimberley, M. 2009: Silvicultural Trials and Wood Quality Studies with Naturally-RegeneratingTotara, Northland, New Zealand. Third Year Progress Report for the Northland Totara Working Group. Contract Report, Scion (unpubl.). 30p.
  • Bergin, D.; Kimberley, M. 2010: Thinning and pruning of totara-dominant naturally regenerating forest in Northland. In: Barton, I.; Gadgil, R.; Bergin, D. (Eds.) Managing native trees – towards a national strategy. Proceedings of the Tane’s Tree Trust 10th Anniversary Conference and Workshop held at the University of Waikato 18-20 November 2009. Tāne’ Tree Trust. 39-43.
  • Bergin, D. O.; Kimberley, M. O. 2014: Factors influencing natural regeneration of totara (Podocarpus totara D.Don) on grazed hill country grassland in Northland, New Zealand. New Zealand Journal Forestry Science 44 (13). Link
  • Cown, D.; Bergin, D.; Quinlan, P. 2009: Totara – a growing resource. New Zealand Tree Grower 30 (4): 23-24.
  • Kennedy, C. 2007: Developing methodology for resource assessment of naturally regenerating totara in the Whangaroa Community Area, Northland, New Zealand. Tane’s Tree Trust Report for the Northland Totara Working Group. 30p.
  • Davey, B. 2013: Totara ingrade test results. Scion Report prepared for Farm Forestry Timbers (NZ Farm Forestry Association) (unpubl.) 8p.
  • McKinley, R. 2008: Selected wood properties of naturally regenerating farm-grown totara from Northland. Scion Contract Report to the Northland Totara Working Group. Unpubl. 7p.
  • Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment 2002: Weaving resilience into our working lands: recommendations for future roles of native plants. Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment. Wellington. 39p.
  • Satchell, D. 2021: Land use options and economic returns for marginal hill country in Northland. Northland Regional Council report.19p.
  • Smith, M. 2016: Podocarpus totara: managing natural regrowth. In the Northland region of New Zealand is a significant indigenous resource whose natural regeneration has the potential to transform the ‘productive landscape’. Part 1. Courtesy of Timber and Forestry e news, February 2016. 10-11.
  • Smith, M. 2016: Transforming the productive landscape. Encouraging the commercial use of totara as a viable farm-based option is the goal of the Northland Totara Working Group (NTWG). Part 2. Courtesy of Timber and Forestry e news, March 2016. 10-11.
  • Quinlan, P. 2004: Managing totara on farms under the Forests Act. Indigena June 2004. NZ Farm Forestry Association.
  • Quinlan, P. 2010: A role for totara in rural production landscapes. In: Barton, I.; Gadgil, R.; Bergin, D. (Eds.) Managing native trees – towards a national strategy. Proceedings of the Tāne’s Tree Trust 10th Anniversary Conference and Workshop held at the University of Waikato 18-20 November 2009. Tāne’s Tree Trust. 31-35.
  • Quinlan, P. 2011: Existing uses and market development opportunities for naturally regeneration totara timber. SFF Project L10/145. Report for the Northland Totara Working Group. 98p.
  • Quinlan, P.; Bergin, D.; Barton, I.; Berg, P.; 2011: Promoting the management of a naturally regenerating native forest resource for commercial timber production. A case-study based around Podocarpus totara. ANZIF Conference, Auckland, 1-5th May 2011- Pacific Forestry…Growing a Forestry Future linked with 2011, the UN International Year of Forests. Concurrent Session 4: Forest Extension. Conference paper. 19p.
  • Quinlan, P.; Bergin, M.; Bergin, D.; Kimberley, M. 2013: Management of naturally regenerating totara on farms – thinning and pruning. Tane’s Tree Trust Technical Handbook Article No. 11.3. 12p.
  • Quinlan, P.; Bergin, M,; Bergin, D. 2018: Weaving resilience into our farming ladscapes with native forestry - Tane’s Tree Trust Technical Handbook Article No. 11.4. 12p.
  • Quinlan, P. 2017: Examples of Totara Sapwood resisting attach by the Common Household Borer (Anobium Punctatum). Report on behalf of the Northland Totara Working Group, Tane’s Tree Trust (Unpubl.) 20p.
  • Young, L.; Norton, D. 2016: Sustainable totara management and biodiversity conservation in Northland (Unpubl.) 4p.