6.1.e Total and per capita consumption of non-wood forest products


This indicator provides information on the consumption of non-wood forest products. The quantity of non-wood products consumed illustrates society’s dependence on forests as a source of these products.

Current state

Limited statistical information exists on the consumption of non-wood forest products in New Zealand, particularly game meat and wild foods, as they are normally harvested for personal use.

Some secondary information is available through hunting organisations, nutritional studies and the companies that process game meat and wild foods. This information indicates that wild foods are a small component of most New Zealanders diet. In saying this, it is important to recognise that, for a section of the Māori population, the collection of wild foods (from the forest and marine environment) continues to be a high priority.

Game meat consumption

The principal game animals harvested in New Zealand are deer, goats (including chamois and tahr), pigs and rabbits. Each of these species was introduced to New Zealand for their meat and hides. They have become established across the country, and their grazing patterns pose a threat to the natural ecosystems in which they now roam.

Of the seven deer species established in New Zealand, red deer are the most commonly hunted, followed by Sika deer and fallow deer. A limited number of surveys have been conducted on the number of deer harvested by recreational hunters. In the early 1990s the annual harvest was estimated at 50 000 head per annum. Only a small percentage of the carcasses brought out by recreational hunters are sold.

Commercial harvesting of deer from conservation lands and the forest estate is discussed in Indicator 2.e. In 2012, four processing companies handled most of the feral deer that were commercially hunted.

A significant proportion of the annual cull of feral goats is for pest control rather than human consumption. An assessment in the early 1990s estimated that 68 500 were culled over one season. Two of the favoured hunting species, chamois and tahr, have a combined harvest of nearly 2000 to 3000 per annum. They are mainly hunted for trophy heads rather than food consumption.

Feral pigs inhabit forest and scrublands, and are prevalent on rough hill-country farmland, covering around 34 percent to 37 percent of New Zealand. Most feral pigs are harvested from private farmland and planted forests. The annual cull was estimated in 1992 to be roughly 100 000 per annum.

Honey consumption

New Zealand’s honey production has averaged 12 524 tonnes a year over the 2008 to 2013 period (9267 tonnes per annum over 2001–07). Domestic consumption is estimated to be 5000 tonnes to 6000 tonnes per annum. The additional volume is exported, principally to the United Kingdom, Hong Kong/China, Australia and Singapore. The apiculture industry also produces beeswax, pollen and propolis (a resin marketed for its health benefits).

The industry has become a significant exporter, and the principal companies are some of New Zealand’s most innovative, with research into the medicinal and pharmaceutical properties associated with honey.

The 1997 National Nutrition Survey found that the average consumption of honey was around 1.06 kilograms per person per year. The statistics collected on honey production do not differentiate between the pollen and nectar sources, such as white clover or indigenous stands of mānuka. This would be a complicated exercise, as hives can be located in a variety of pasture and bush situations during a single season.

Possum fibre and associated products

The Australian brushtailed possum (Trichosurus vulpecula) was introduced to New Zealand in an effort to establish a commercial trapping industry. The first recorded shipment of possum pelts occurred in 1921. The market for pelts has been variable and driven by overseas trends in the fashion industry, the public view of fur products and the preference of international buyers. During periods of depressed pelt prices, the quantity of skins exported fell below 500 000, while in peak years (when returns were sufficient to provide a reasonable living for trappers) it exceeded 3 million. The negative image of fur in the 1980s and 1990s saw demand fall away.

While the level of domestic processing has increased, the industry still depends on the export market to sell much of the yarn and final fashion garments. Blended possum and merino products are increasingly seen in New Zealand retail outlets. The blended fibre is used in products such as gloves, scarves and hats, which emphasise its heat-retention properties.

There has been limited use of possums as a game meat, because the animal can be a carrier of the tuberculosis vector and has been implicated in the spread of the disease to farm animals such as cattle and deer. Ongoing efforts by TBfree New Zealand and the Department of Conservation have been successful in reducing the infected population and enabling specific areas to be declared disease free. Possum meat is being used mainly in the production of pet food. The industry is in the initial stages of development, and the demand is coming more from the export market than local consumer interest.

Berry, herb and nut consumption

Berries, herbs and nuts were traditionally harvested by Māori as a component of their diet. Information is not collected on customary harvest levels.

Sphagnum moss usage

The sphagnum moss industry is export focused, with most of the harvest being supplied to overseas customers. (See Indicator 2.e.)

Whitebait harvesting

Whitebait is the generic term for the juvenile form of five fish species from the Galaxiidae family. Māori traditionally caught whitebait, and it has become one of New Zealand’s aquatic delicacies. The harvesting of whitebait is controlled by the Department of Conservation and is limited to a short season in spring.

Intact forested catchments, with their higher water quality, continue to be a major source of whitebait. One of the best known areas for whitebait is South Westland (on the West Coast of the South Island), where most of the streams have their source within the conservation estate.


The honey industry has seen steady production growth over the past decade, driven by strong international demand particularly for mānuka honey. Hive numbers have increased since 2005/06, and the number of registered beekeepers has grown over the 2009–2013 period.

The renewed interest in possum fur over the past 15 years has been driven by the development of a new fibre blend (incorporating possum and merino fibres) and local companies taking more control of processing and garment development.

Whitebait can be found in many of New Zealand’s major rivers and streams, but its presence has generally declined in areas of extensive pasture land (that were drained in previous generations).

Trend Status

Data Quality L

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