To protect and maintain our native species, careful sustainable management and regulations are in place.
The harvesting of indigenous timbers in New Zealand is now confined to private lands.
Once the mainstay of New Zealand’s timber industry (until the 1950s, indigenous forests were the prime source of domestic timber requirements), the production of indigenous timber has declined.
This is mainly as a result of replacement by plantation timbers, the move to sustainable management of indigenous forests and, recently, because of competition from imported furniture.
Nonetheless, the ongoing sustainable management of private indigenous forests for timber is having substantial sectoral and conservation benefits that are:
The total production of timbers from sustainable sources is, in 2008, low.
About 25,000 m3 (standing tree volume) or less are felled annually, comprising podocarp like rimu, beech and tawa, all species that are high-quality furniture and finishing timbers.
There is an approved annual sustainable harvest of beech (particularly red and silver beech) that is significantly higher than the present national production of about 15,000 m3.
The indigenous forestry sector is keen to realise the potential of harvesting beech, and is proactive in advancing the sector, both with regard to forest management and timber processing and marketing.
For example, the ministerial Indigenous Forestry Advisory Group provides advice to the Minister of Forestry on issues facing the sector and promoting policy, management and technological advancements within the sector.
Of the 1 million ha of privately owned indigenous forest available for sustainable management, including the production of timber, perhaps one-third has potential for long-term management.
This is once forest with high protection values and priorities, significant natural areas, and forest with no or little commercial timber trees present, are taken into account.
As such, the indigenous timber sector in New Zealand will be small but unique, supplying top-end decorative and special-purpose timbers where utility timbers, like our ever-present pine, are unsuitable or inappropriate, or importantly there is an attractive alternative.
To this end, users should appreciate that New Zealand indigenous timbers now mainly come from sustainably managed forests, are produced in accordance with Part 3A of the Forests Act 1949 and are legal under New Zealand law.
The major indigenous tree species in these forests are beech (silver and red), rimu and tawa. Kauri, matai, totara, miro, black beech, hard beech, rewarewa, hinau and a range of other minor species are available intermittently.