• $6.69b
    Generated Export Revenue year ending March 2023
  • 16,920
    Individuals worked in the Forest industry across 2021
  • 6,095
    Learners enrolled in Forestry Studies in 2021
  • 54%
    Of all forestry products exported to China year ending March 2023


When Māori first arrived in Aotearoa, it is believed that more than 80% of the land was covered in lush, dense native forest and shrublands. The first contacts between Māori and visiting ships prompted the supply of logs and spars, and an increasing desire for Aotearoa timber eventually led to Māori involvement in the felling of timber for commercial purposes. 

As colonisation increased, so too did the impacts of commercial harvesting and the clearing of bush for settlements and agriculture. By 1913, some species were threatened with extinction. In order to preserve what remained, restrictions over these activities and the exporting of native timber were introduced.

Further efforts were required and by 1925 people were incentivised to plant exotic species. Radiata pine (Pinus radiata) became the preferred species, as it grew faster in Aotearoa than anywhere else in the world. People began planting exotic species in the 1920s, 30s and 60s, creating a booming forestry industry. 

Today, forests cover 38% of the land - a total of 10.1 million hectares of forests, with 2.1 million hectares of plantation forests (90% of these are radiata pine). Most plantation forests (96%) are now owned privately for commercial timber production. Māori have a high proportion of ownership in the industry, but usually this is as landowners, not ownership of the trees. While an estimated 19% of businesses are Māori owned, Māori trusts and incorporations own $4.3 billion of assets in the forestry industry and more than 30% of land that is under plantation forestry, in addition to large areas of indigenous forest. Despite this, Māori remain underrepresented at ownership and leadership levels in other parts of the supply chain. 

In 2021, we counted 16,920 people in the forest industry workforce. The industry relies on a small number of export markets and a narrow range of products, with little new investment going into the industry. Despite this, as at March 2023, exports were around $6.69 billion and forestry is the country’s largest renewable biomass resource. The industry is set to support the country’s transition to a net-zero economy because of the production of new wood-based products, including biochemicals, bioplastics, textiles, and fuels.

Find out about our work to assess the quality of programmes delivered by providers for this industry here.

2025 Investment Advice

Muka Tangata provides advice to TEC on investment in vocational education to influence funding decisions that considers industry needs, to help match skills and workforce demands with supply.

Learn more


We highlight the current key priorities and opportunities for each industry. These opportunities will be updated on an ongoing basis as our understanding of the industry evolves and deepens.

This is our plan to address the opportunities that arose from our engagement, research and analysis. It includes real actions that we are committed to delivering – these are both industry specific and cross-cutting actions across all industries in the food and fibre sector where common themes emerged.

It includes broader areas or dependencies where external parties will need to provide input into solutions with Muka Tangata support; for example, advocacy, engagement, collaboration, and provision of specific expertise or data. We will work in collaboration with those who will need to take the lead in this area. This section will test potential solutions that we’re working on and seek feedback and input into them.