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Sustainable management of indigenous forests on private land in New Zealand

Ihl, Cornelia
Fields of Research
Indigenous forests in New Zealand are nationally and internationally recognized as significant and highly valuable ecosystems. They are the country's most biologically diverse ecosystems, containing 70% of New Zealand's biomass and contributing to New Zealand's heritage and green image. They are valuable especially for their ecological uniqueness, with a very high level of endemism within their range of species. Much of these forests have been decimated over the last 200 years, and many of the species are threatened by extinction. Therefore, ecological and environmental principles such as maintaining the structure and composition of the forests as well as protecting its biodiversity need to be considered when managing the remaining indigenous forests on private land in New Zealand. Today, sustainable forest management is the approach to integrate both ecosystem conservation and the production of indigenous timber. The first objective of this dissertation is to study people's understandings and interpretations of what constitutes sustainable forest management (SFM) of indigenous forests in New Zealand. In my opinion, it is important to acknowledge the fact that these terms are used worldwide very broadly and have a great variety of meanings and interpretations. A common understanding of what sustainable forest management means could be essential for the co-operation between the different groups involved in the implementation of such management, such as government representatives, forest managers, environmentalists and landowners. The second objective is to evaluate the implementation and methods used to manage indigenous forests on private land on a sustainable basis. This evaluation includes examining the Forests Amendment Act (FAA) 1993 requirements for private landowners regarding their forest management, the role of the Indigenous Forestry Unit administrating the legislation, and the SFM Plan and Permit system. Market related issues as well as possible solutions for landowners who want to extract indigenous timber on a sustainable basis are discussed as well. The information this dissertation is based upon is mostly extracted from interviews and personal communications with people directly involved in indigenous forest management, with most of them being private landowners that utilise their forests under the FAA. Due to the limitation of time and the volume of this dissertation, the interviews have only been conducted in the South Island, with the number of interviews not giving the possibility of a statistical review. Therefore, this dissertation evaluates the information gathered during those interviews on a qualitative basis. One obvious conclusion in regards to the first objective is the fact that there is no one internationally agreed definition of sustainable forest management, and most official definitions are worded broadly and very generically. In addition, landowner's views range widely from defining SFM as ecosystem conservation to sustainable timber yield and economic sustainability to a misconception and ignorance of the idea and terms. It is difficult to categorise people with their opinions into groups. While most people agree that sustainable indigenous timber extraction is possible in New Zealand, many interviewees feel there is a need to regard the extent of this utilization, as well as distinguishing between what types of timber to harvest. At the same time, they feel that the legislation as it is today still holds too many exemptions and loopholes that need to be dealt with in order to achieve the intent of the legislation and to manage the sustainability of the forests. As the IFU has a recognized and important role in providing for' the guidance of landowners into sustainable management, it is essential to further research and monitor the changes of the forest ecosystems' and to provide sufficient capacities to enforce the legislation appropriately. This could possibly include amending the legislative regulations regarding timber imports from unsustainable resources as well as the SILNA land exemptions and giving more incentive to certify wood under the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).
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