7.5.c Monitoring, assessment and reporting on progress towards sustainable management of forests


This indicator provides information on the capacity to monitor, assess and report on forests. An open and transparent monitoring and reporting system that provides up-to-date and reliable forest-related information is essential for informed decision making, in generating public and political awareness of issues affecting forests and in the development of policies to underpin the sustainable management of forests.

Current state

National environmental reporting

The Ministry for the Environment (MfE) reports on the state of New Zealand’s environment and provides information on the state of the air, atmosphere and climate, freshwater, land, and marine environment. MfE uses its own data and data collected from several other agencies for this reporting. These include local authorities, Crown research institutes and other government departments.

Reporting on land has been based on six national environmental indicators:

  • land cover
  • land use
  • soil health
  • soil erosion risk
  • area of indigenous land cover
  • distribution of seven selected indigenous species.

These may change if the Environmental Reporting Bill, introduced into Parliament in February 2014, is passed in to law. The purpose of this Bill is to create a national-level environmental reporting system to ensure that reporting on the environment occurs on a regular basis and can be trusted by the public as independent, fair and accurate. Responsibility for environmental reporting will lie with the Secretary for the Environment and the Government Statistician: the latter to ensure reporting is at arm’s length from the government of the day.

Two land classification systems are used to report on New Zealand’s land, the Land Cover Database and Land Environments of New Zealand.

New Zealand Land Cover Database

The New Zealand Land Cover Database (LCDB) is a Crown-owned, digital thematic classification of land cover and land use classes. It is designed for use in geographic information systems or as printed maps.

The current version 4 of the LCDB was released in 2014 and uses 33 land cover classes. These include nine forest or shrubland categories.

Land Environments of New Zealand

Land Environments of New Zealand (LENZ) is a quantitatively based classification of the country’s terrestrial environments that helps biodiversity conservation and natural resource management. It identifies climatic and landform factors likely to influence the distribution of species, and uses these to group together sites that have similar environmental conditions.

LENZ maps New Zealand’s landscapes at four different levels using 20, 100, 200 or 500 environments.

Local government environmental monitoring

Local government must monitor the state of the environment for their region or district under the Resource Management Act 1991. Although reporting the results of this monitoring is not a legislative requirement, councils must make a review of the results of their monitoring available to the public at least every five years.

Forest inventories

Three national-scale forest inventories have been undertaken in New Zealand, the most recent being through the ongoing Land Use and Carbon Analysis System (LUCAS). The focus of the LUCAS forest inventories is carbon, but they also provide other metrics for different reporting purposes, for example, standing volume for the Global Forest Resources Assessment reporting. Further, the Department of Conservation’s (DOC’s) Biodiversity Monitoring and Reporting System is integrated into the LUCAS indigenous forest inventory. The original national forest inventory was undertaken between 1921 and 1923, and another national forest survey was conducted between 1946 and 1955.

Land Use and Carbon Analysis System
LUCAS was established in 2005 and helps New Zealand meet its international reporting requirements under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Kyoto Protocol. It is a cross- government programme led by MfE.

Land use data are collected for indigenous and plantation forests, and both are sub-divided between those established before 1990 and those established after 1989.

Between 2002 and 2007, a network of about 1257 permanent 20 metre by 20 metre plots was established on an 8 kilometre grid system across indigenous forests. An 8 kilometre grid system has also been used to establish permanent plots in pre- 1990 plantation forests, while a 4 kilometre grid system has been used for plots in post-1989 forests. For plantation forests, airborne scanning using Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) is used in a double- sampling approach to increase the precision of the estimates.

The intention is to re-measure plantation forests every five years and indigenous forests every 10 years from 2014. (See Criteria 2, 3 and 5 and State of New Zealand’s Forests.)

National Exotic Forest Description
The National Exotic Forest Description (NEFD) is New Zealand’s commercial plantation forest resource description. It is prepared by the Ministry for Primary Industries and the New Zealand Forest Owners Association to help with resource and policy planning.

The NEFD comprises two data sets. The first is an area-age class data set with net stocked forest area by district and/or city council administrative area, year of planting, species and management regime. The second is a yield table data set with stem volume broken down into pruned, sawn and pulp logs by location, age, species and management regime.

In addition to the area-age class and yield information, data on planting, harvesting and some ancillary forest resource data are collected. NEFD forest area reports are published each year; and yield tables are published from time to time. At about five-year intervals, national and regional wood availability forecasts are prepared from the NEFD data sets.

The 31st edition of the annual NEFD report describes the plantation forest resource as at April 2014.

Other forest-related inventories

National Vegetation Survey databank
Ecologically based vegetation monitoring has been undertaken over the past 50 years or so. The resulting information has been brought together in the National Vegetation Survey (NVS) databank, the largest vegetation database in New Zealand.

The NVS is a physical archive and electronic databank containing records from about 94 000 vegetation survey plots – including data from over 19 000 permanent plots. NVS provides a unique record, spanning more than 50 years, of indigenous and exotic plants in New Zealand’s terrestrial ecosystems. Broad ranges of habitats are covered, with an emphasis on indigenous forests and grasslands.

The physical archive includes plot sheets, maps and photographs from many years of vegetation surveys. Software for entering, validating and summarising data is available.

The former New Zealand Forest Service, the Department of Lands and Survey and the Botany Division of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research (DSIR) conducted the original surveys. Ongoing surveys and research by MfE, DOC, regional councils, universities and Landcare Research are constantly providing new data to NVS.

Data within NVS can support reporting requirements for the Convention on Biological Diversity, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, state of the environment reporting, the Resource Management Act 1991 and the Montreal Process. Historical information in NVS has significance in enabling New Zealand to address issues of current concern that were unforeseen at the time of data collection. Examples are: assessing the impact of climate change on indigenous ecosystems, the storage of carbon in indigenous ecosystems and setting restoration goals in areas since degraded.

Biodiversity Monitoring and Reporting System
DOC is progressively implementing a national system to monitor and report on New Zealand’s biodiversity. The Biodiversity Monitoring and Reporting System provides DOC with comprehensive information about biodiversity on public conservation lands, and potentially across New Zealand.

The system uses indicators and measures from the New Zealand Biodiversity Assessment Framework (see Lee et al, 2005). It has three tiers of information that operate at different scales and have varying levels of detail and coverage.

  • Tier 1 is broad scale with monitoring on 1405 sites on the public conservation estate over five-year periods. The two biodiversity indicators are the dominance of exotic weeds, pests and threats, and the mix of indigenous plants and animals. Another 1100 sampling sites lie outside the conservation estate.
  • Tier 2 focuses on detailed information needed to manage ecosystems and species effectively and involves consistent monitoring and reporting of results and outcomes achieved in terrestrial, freshwater and marine environments.
  • Tier 3 combines intensive research and monitoring at a few important sites to help predict and interpret national and local-scale trends, and provide the understanding needed to maintain or restore biodiversity.

Commercial forestry statistics
New Zealand has a rich set of commercial forestry statistics, some dating back to the 1920s. These statistics cover forest planting, harvesting, processing and trade in forestry products.

Ministry for Primary Industries
The Ministry for Primary Industries collects, collates and publishes forestry production and trade statistics on a quarterly basis. Annual production and trade tables are also published.

The statistics cover:

  • production – roundwood removals from plantation and indigenous forests, and the production of sawn timber, panels, pulp, and paper and paperboard
  • trade – log, chip and sawn timber exports by port of loading and country of destination, and pulp and panel exports by country of destination
  • stocks – estimates of the quantities of sawn timber, panels and pulp and paper on processors’ sites.

Since 2003 the NZ Forest Owners Association, in conjunction with MPI, has published an annual collection of key statistics on plantation forestry called New Zealand Plantation Forestry Industry Facts and Figures.

Statistics New Zealand
Statistics New Zealand is central government’s statistics agency. It publishes a number of forestry- related statistics in addition to those published by the Ministry for Primary Industries. A core focus of Statistics New Zealand is the production of key economic and population statistics.

International reporting

Information and data from the processes identified above provide the basis for New Zealand’s international forest reporting. The two principal reports are the Global Forest Resources Assessment for the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, and this report for the Montreal Process. Both reports are completed at around five-yearly intervals.

Other forestry-related reporting is provided to the United Nations Forum on Forests and the Convention on Biological Diversity.


National environmental monitoring continues to evolve, driven by domestic and international concerns for the environment. Detailed statistical data from comprehensive inventory systems exist for commercial plantation forests, while data for indigenous forests are available at a lower level of detail. New Zealand reports internationally through the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization’s Global Forest Resource Assessment and the Montreal Process.

Recent initiatives include the Environmental Reporting Bill, the release of Version 4 of the Land Cover Database (Landcare Research) and the progressive implementation by the Department of Conservation of the national Biodiversity Monitoring and Reporting System.

Trend Status

Data Quality M / H

Supporting Material:

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