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Normalising Native Forestry

Project Status: Current


The first year of the Normalising Native Forestry Programme has been completed. This has been supported by The Tindall Foundation and managed by Tāne’s Tree Trust (TTT). The aim of this 3-year research programme is to continue developing and providing the urgently needed tools, resources, and advice to support native forestation at scale in Aotearoa.


There is currently unprecedented interest in establishing native forest from farming and forestry sectors, Māori, public and investors. This has been spurred on by Trees That Count, the Billion Trees Programme, and the Climate Change Commission promoting more permanent native forest.

This new programme builds on previous work of the Our Forest Our Future programme but with a new direction, particularly the urgent need for science-based information and technical advice for establishing native forest at scale to address climate change and environmental degradation.

This programme focuses on working with Nature, demonstrating managed regeneration to cost-effectively establish native forest at scale, and promoting nature-based native forestry. The project explores the drivers and barriers to landowners establishing native forest, novel approaches such as the role of fast-growing exotics, monitoring, and innovative methods to reduce cost of establishment. We need to better demonstrate the economic, environmental and cultural benefits of native forests, and help develop incentive systems. And we are overhauling our databases, to provide a more user-friendly interface, and refine our science-based growth and carbon estimates.

The Normalising Native Forestry Programme has six new workstreams. Work completed in the first year is summarised. Note that these workstreams will continue for the next 2 years.

1. Working with Nature - native forestation at landscape scale

The Climate Change Commission recommended a major upscaling of native forestation efforts, nearly 300,000 ha of new native forests by 2035. With the cost of planting often at $20,000 per hectare, cost-effective establishment at scale requires working with Nature by encouraging natural regeneration, as well as planting. Projects underway include:

  • Managed regeneration – Demonstrating concepts of assisted regeneration on marginal hill country as cost-effective methods including planting seed islands, and integrating other factors important in establishment of natives such as pest animal control.
  • Demonstration planting sites – Continuing existing trials comparing planting practices and new treatments for establishment of native species at scale.
  • Integrating natives into lowlands - Planting within intensively farmed lowland landscapes as corridors, stepping stones, shelterbelts, riparian zones, and enhancement of remnants.
  • New technologies and treatments – Investigating various technologies to establish native forest at scale such as direct seeding and drone deployment with potential partners, planting low-cost small planting stock, and comparing various planting densities.
  • Monitoring success – Developing a practical, science-based field monitoring system to quantify the success of planting and regeneration programmes, including aerial mapping.
  • Videos and factsheets – Completing a series of factsheets and videos on best practice establishment, management and monitoring.

2. Promoting Nature-based indigenous forestry in Aotearoa

This workstream continues from the “Building on the Northland tōtara work” work completed during the Our Forests Our Future programme. It is intended to promote the development of nature-based forestry to establish and manage long-term sustainable native forest resources for multiple benefits. This will include:

  • Promoting sustainable native forest management on private land – for multiple benefits and values.
  • Legal impediments – Work on resolving the legal and regulatory impediments and disincentives to sustainable native forestry.
  • Northland Totara Working Group – Convene the NTWG and support the next phase development of the Tōtara Industry Pilot (TIP) project.
  • Technology transfer – Continue to develop and provide advice to landowners, NTWG newsletters, hold field days, and give workshop and conference presentations, and technical resources via our website.
  • Research topics- Continue to scope/prepare bids for funded research on native forest management.
  • Sustainable management of other forest types – Promote Nature-based forestry systems for totara and other species nationwide including sustainable specialty timber production using CCF of both planted and regenerating forest, e.g., beech in the South Island.
  • Collaboration – Networking and information exchange with overseas groups such as PRO SILVA.
  • Servicing – Requests for information related to native forestry matters.

Highlights of this year’s accomplishments include:

  • Associate membership of PRO SILVA, an international organisation promoting close to nature forestry practices.
  • O Tātou Ngahere campaign.
  • Small-scale low-impact, low volume tōtara harvest trial at the Pāmu Farms Kapiro block. An article on this was published in the NZIF Journal of Forestry.
  • Initiated work to outline the potential to sustainably manage beech forests on private land.
  • Provision of advice to landowners interested in the management of planted and naturally regenerated tōtara and other native forest species.
  • Publication of the Northland Tōtara Working Group Newsletter 2022.
  • Publication of A Practical Guide to the Management of Tōtara on Private Land.

3. Making the most of Tāne’s Tree Trust’s databases

Tāne’s Tree Trust have the most comprehensive national database for planted native forests, which has been used to develop models and calculators. This database and associated tools are providing essential data for policy-makers, investors, and the forestry and farming sectors. Projects underway include:

  • TTT database development Setting up a new database system for all growth data including the Tāne’s Tree Trust plantation database, NTWG totara data, natural regeneration data and any other growth data from existing and future TTT projects.
  • National survey Initiating a nationwide survey of planted native stands including remeasurement of existing PSPs and growth plots, and establishing plots in new stands to develop species-based national and regional growth and carbon models.
  • Processing monitoring data With co-funding from collaborators, developing a monitoring system with data entry, storage, and processing functions - as part of our growth databases.
  • Interactive database access Developing the new TTT growth database into an integrated, user-friendly system to allow user access to growth data summaries by species and region.
  • TTT reference database Setting up a reference database of published and unpublished literature relevant to NZ on planted and managed regenerating native forest.
  • Peer-review publications Publishing academic and forestry sector journal papers based on our database and toolkit to underpin growth and carbon modelling and calculators.

The Tane’s Tree Trust native plantation database comprises 15,000 native tree and shrubs (including over 60 different species) located in over 100 stands nationwide.

4. Incentivising landowners – an economic case for native forestation

The cost of planting natives remains a limiting factor for landowners. The business case for native forestation, therefore, relies on decreasing the costs, and also compensating landowners for the non-timber values that accrue to the wider community, but do not currently have a market value. The Climate Change Commission’s advice to Government includes creation of incentives for establishing native forest. Projects underway include:

  • Drivers and barriers Investigating the drivers and barriers for landowners establishing and managing native forest as a viable and more economic land use compared to pastoral farming or exotic production forestry on marginal land.
  • Valuing tools for NTVs Continue to provide advice on practicality and testing of any proposed assessment tools for valuing non-timber values (NTVs) to help determine stakeholder priorities for forest restoration and management.
  • Incentive scheme support and advocacy Continuing to provide technical support and advocating for development of an incentives system, based on biodiversity credits or payment for ecosystem services. This includes participation in workshops with government policymakers, along with other stakeholders.
  • Economics calculator Refining the economics calculator as part of the TTT toolkit for planted native forestry.
  • TTT is part of a new multi-agency project aligned with this workstream, which is led by Dr Clint Cameron, and involves collaboration with Pamu Farms and other organisations. The aim is to develop an ecosystem quality and ecosystem service valuation framework, specific to NZ, which provides a means for assessing the economic benefits derived from improving the condition of ecosystems harbouring indigenous biodiversity on private land.

5. Evaluating novel ecosystems - transitioning exotics to natives

Exotic woody plants that dominate many of our landscapes can potentially be transitioned to native forest. Carbon forestry interests are currently investing in permanent carbon forests, capitalising on the fast early growth of radiata pine, then leaving it as a nurse for permanent native forest. This needs urgent research work. Projects underway and proposed:

  • Existing data – Locate and interrogate the national carbon plot monitoring network (LUCAS) for both exotic plantation forest and native forest to provide insights into transition from pines to permanent native forest.
  • Survey existing pine/natives – Undertake surveys of existing pine plantations and understorey development to provide data on effectiveness of fast-growing exotic species as a tool for establishing permanent native forest.
  • Exotic to native transition trials – Investigate methods for conversion of exotics to native and feasibility of exotic nurse for establishing permanent native forest.
  • Transitioning from clearfell exotics – Develop guidelines on converting clear-felled radiata to native forest at small and larger scales, in support of the increasing interest including by Maori landowners.
  • Novel Ecosystems – Scope research projects/trials into the topic of managing highly modified forests comprising a mix of native and exotic species, including problem weed species, and the concept of Novel Ecosystems.

Highlights of this year’s progress include:

  • Successful bid for a large, funded project on transitional forestry (see project outline further below).

Dense regeneration of native podocarps and ferns under a canopy of wilding maritime pines in Northland. It is important to understand the factors that affect natural succession under exotic species.

6. Collaboratively building capability

A holistic, multi-agency approach is required for native forest to be successfully established at scale. Herbivory, bird and seed predation, and vigorous weeds need to be tackled. We must work together and develop more capability in establishing and managing native forests. Projects underway include:

  • Collaboration with NGOs and communities – Maintaining the close relationship with Trees That Count and developing stronger links with other NGO and community initiatives involved in promoting native forest restoration, exploring opportunities for joint demonstration trials including planting, natural regeneration, and control of pest animals and bird predators.
  • Engagement with forestry sector – Fostering ongoing collaboration with forestry sector policy, researchers and industry entities including School of Forestry, DOC, MfE, Scion, NZ Farm Forestry Association, NZ Institute of Forestry (NZIF), TUR, etc. One of our trustees, Dr Jacqui Aimers, has been elected to the NZIF Council, which provides a greater voice for indigenous forestry in the forestry sector.
  • Education and training – Fostering and supporting interest from forestry schools, Māori groups and kura, and other educational providers with Nature-based forestry training opportunities, e.g., support for Ngāti Whakaue’s Te Rangihakahaka Centre for Science and Technology in the development and delivery of an educational programme on native forests.
  • Technology transfer – Ongoing workshops, field trips, videos, factsheets, online publications and presentations, and social media communications linking in with industry organisations and other NGOs where appropriate, to boost outreach.
  • TTT advisory roles – Exploring the concept of TTT regional advisors jointly with regional councils and TUR for native forestry extension work.

For more information on the Normalising Native Forestry Programme contact:

· Peter Berg, Chair, Tāne’s Tree Trust Enable JavaScript to view protected content.

· TTT Office Enable JavaScript to view protected content.