Looking up at the punga trees
Image: Jimmy Johnson | DOC


Forests are rich habitats full of trees, and are important to the natural systems that sustain us.

What is a forest?

Forests are rich abundant habitats full of trees and shrubs and all kinds of animals.

Before people arrived in New Zealand, 80% of the land was covered in dense forest. Now only 24% of land is native forest, or just under 6.5 million hectares.

Two of the main types of native forest in New Zealand are beech and podocarp-hardwood.

Importance of forests

Forests are vital to our lives and the natural systems that sustain us.

  • Forests protect the soil from erosion and reduce flooding.
  • Forests cycle water between the soil and atmosphere and help make rain.
  • Trees produce oxygen for us to breathe.
  • Trees absorb carbon dioxide so are valuable "carbon sinks" to help counter climate change.

Forests are also places we like to visit, to camp or picnic in, or walk, horse-ride and mountain-bike through.

Forests are also an important part of our economy – our production forests provide a range of timber and wood products for domestic and export markets. Our native forests are popular tourist sites and help to boost our valuable tourism industry.

Forests are a habitat for a wide variety of plants and animals. They are powerhouses of biodiversity.

Threats to our forests

Introduced pest animals and weeds threaten our forests.

Animal pests include possums, goats, pigs, rats, mice and deer. These animals trample the forest, eat small trees, munch on seeds and eat the leaves of growing trees.

Garden plants escape into the forests and become weeds. Plant pests like Old Man's Beard smother trees. Other plants like Wandering Willie carpet the ground, stopping new native plants from growing.

Fires also threaten our forests, and kauri dieback disease is a relatively new threat to kauri forests.

Our role

DOC and many others are helping to protect and restore native forests.

People around the country are planting trees on Maori and private land, on public reserves, in schools and backyards.

Landowners and community volunteers are also working to control unwanted animal and plant pests in forests to ensure they provide safe and healthy homes for our diverse native wildlife.

The fight is on to bring back our native forests.

You can help

  • When you visit a native forest be sure to keep all of your rubbish with you. Take only memories and leave only footprints.
  • Keep to the tracks to avoid damaging plants, roots, and spreading diseases such as kauri dieback.
  • Get your hands dirty! Volunteer for planting, weeding, and pest control projects.
  • If you work with kids, use our native trees education resource in your local green space.
Back to top