6.5.b The importance of forests to people


This indicator provides information on the range of values that communities and individuals hold for forests. These values shape the way people view forests, including their behaviours and attitudes to all aspects of forest management.

Current state

Forests are well recognised for a range of natural, cultural, social and economic values. The importance of particular values and mixes of values varies with the nature and location of the forests and with the focus of the group being surveyed.

New Zealanders recognise a wide range of values associated with both indigenous and plantation forests. Most prominent are:

  • biodiversity at the species and ecosystem levels, and the ability of ecosystems to function in a healthy state
  • the productive capacity of forests for timber, employment and economic contributions – largely, but not entirely, related to planted forests
  • access to non-polluted drinking water catchments and waterways
  • the contributions forests make to soil conservation and carbon sinks
  • freedom of access to a variety of passive and active recreational pursuits
  • intrinsic values and their contribution to people’s health and wellbeing
  • wild animal recovery and the cultural harvest of plant species
  • landscape features and their contribution to the identity of areas.

Forest management practices across public and private tenures account for these values inconsistently. Many are “public” values, such as biodiversity, landscape and water quality. Consequently, forest management on publicly and privately owned land attracts considerable public interest.

Planted forests are recognised for their commercial value in the production of wood and processed wood products, and for employment. They also contribute to sustainable economic development, to carbon sequestration and storage, and enable the setting aside of indigenous forests from commercial wood production.

New Zealand’s forests are highly valued for recreational purposes including tramping (trekking), bushwalking, camping, wildlife appreciation, photography, mountain biking and hunting (see Indicator 6.4.b). They are also widely used for community activities and school educational visits.

Māori have strong cultural, spiritual and commercial connections to forests and forestry. They are connected spiritually and culturally with indigenous forests as a resource for food, medicines, building materials, shelter, clothing, implements and handicrafts. Māori involvement in planted forestry is steadily increasing and provides an option for the protection of Māori lands, employment and economic benefits.

In the management of planted forests, Māori have historically adhered to the basic customary principles and beliefs that form Māori customary law. In managing the Māori lease plantation forests of Lake Taupo and Lake Rotoaira, the first three objectives of each lease require the:

  • maintenance of soil stability and prevention of erosion to protect the streams, rivers and lakes
  • protection of wildlife and fish habitat
  • protection of wāhi tapu (sacred or sites of special cultural significance of local Māori) on the lands.

New Zealand society is divided on how well the values of indigenous vegetation are appreciated, and it is questionable whether the nation has yet developed the ability to manage indigenous resources for productive purposes, while protecting their natural values.


Māori involvement in planted forestry is steadily increasing and provides an option for the protection of Māori lands, employment and economic benefits.

Trend Status

Data Quality M

Supporting Material:

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