Native and Exotic Tree Planting in New Zealand

Tree planting in New Zealand

Native and Exotic Tree Planting in New Zealand

Tree planting in New Zealand is in great demand.


Reforestation projects have made great head way. However, even with these projects, tree cover has decreased by 11% in New Zealand since 2000.


According to the Climate Change Commission, we need to plant 380,000 hectares of exotic trees by 2035. This is a huge number of trees, which doesn’t even account for native forestry. The speed of stems going into the ground must be greatly accelerated if we’re to collectively reach this goal!


We’ve got our work cut out for us, but we take on the challenge gladly. Without further ado, let’s talk through our tree choices and how they address the big issues humanity is facing.

Goals we need to hit

So let’s dive head first into all the wonderous aspects of tree planting. First, we’ll unravel the plethora of goals that need to be met, and all in a very short span of time. Relatively speaking!  


When considering the goals on a broader scale, a good place to start is the Paris Agreement.

The Paris Agreement

Paris Agreement


If you haven’t heard of the Paris Agreement, or are unsure as to what this is, here’s a brief over cap for you:

The Paris Agreement is an international treaty to address climate change and it’s ramifications. Where almost every country joined upon its inception back in 2015.  The Agreement includes commitments from all participating countries to reduce their emissions and prevent further human-induced climate change.

The main overarching goal of The Paris Agreement? To limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

To achieve such lofty goals, every country must stand up and take drastic action.

Both to limit emissions and to reduce what is already out there.

Let’s focus in on New Zealand and the part they play in this bigger picture. What goals were set? How does our little nation pull up its pants and get to work solving the climate issue?

Some of the goals, as set by the NZ government are:

  • To reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 30% below 2005 levels by 2030
  • To reduce our emissions to 50% below 1990 levels by 2050
  • Reduce biogenic methane by 24-47% below 2017 levels by 2050

Everyone has their part to play. The US have committed to reduce emissions 80% below 2005 levels by 2050. The UK have committed to reduce emissions 78% below 1990 levels by 2035.

Tree planting in New Zealand has a large part to play, to reach both New Zealand and global targets.

The Climate Change Commissions Advice

“In Aotearoa (New Zealand), forests are the only option available now for removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere at scale” – Climate Change Commission


It has been advised that between 2021 and 2035 New Zealand should plant:


  • 300,000 hectares of new native forest
  • 380,000 hectares of exotic forest


Native forests remove carbon at slower rates than exotic forestry. However, they will continue to sequester carbon for hundreds of years.


We need to sequester carbon both quickly, and as a long-term solution.


Afforestation needs to begin now on mass scale if we’re to meet the 2050 goals. This includes the goals set by the Paris Agreement and by the NZ government.

new zealand mountain and lake scene

The Benefits of Tree Planting in New Zealand

Just like pretty much everywhere in the world, New Zealand needs more trees.


Why is tree planting in New Zealand such as good idea?


  1. We have a stable climate, with year-round rainfall.


  1. It is generally accepted that exotic trees grow much faster in New Zealand than many other countries, particularly those in North America.


This research has been undertaken on the Radiata Pine. This is an example only, we aren’t planting Radiata Pine, but the same principles apply.


  1. New Zealand has ample bare marginal land (around 1.2 million hectares available), which is perfect for tree planting. This is land is too steep to be productive.


  1. It doesn’t matter where the trees are planted, climate change knows no boundaries.


And this is to only name a few reasons why tree planting in New Zealand is so productive. The list can go on and on and on. And on. Did we mention and on?


To this point we have only discussed the benefits of trees when it comes to CO2 sequestration.


In truth, they give us much more than most of us likely realise. Trees:


  • Filter our air, trapping up to 75% of dust, pollen and smoke;
  • Stabalise erosion-prone land, reducing risk of landslides;
  • Prevent soil acidification;
  • Clean our water supply;
  • Reduce the risk of droughts – water is appropriately distributed by slowing rainfall soaking in to the ground;
  • Provide a home for flora and fauna – promoting biodiversity;
  • Cool the air in summer;
  • Warm the air in winter;
  • And of course – they sequester a lot of carbon from our atmosphere!


Sadly, even with their undeniably long list of redeeming qualities New Zealand has still lost approx. 75% tree cover.


Before humans first arrived in New Zealand around 800 years ago, it was almost entirely tree covered. Today only 25% of the land has Native forest cover.


On a Global Scale

Globally, we’re losing forests at an unprecedented rate.


Between 2011 – 2015, 20 million hectares of forest was cut down each year.


Then things began to accelerate.


From 2016 to today, 28 million hectares have been cut down each year.


In 40 years, 1 billion hectares have been cut down. This is an area the same size of Europe.


Hopefully its clear to see, why we’re so passionate and driven to plant as many trees as possible.


Put simply, we need them to survive. 

Photo of a Kaka on a branch

Planting Native Trees for Biodiversity

Currently, New Zealand has 8 million hectares of native forest.


As you would’ve read earlier in this post, it’s been recommend that we bolster this number up by 300,000 hectares.


This is a number we have to reach within the next 14 years. Which I’m sure we can agree, will be here within a blink of an eye.  


The main native forests within New Zealand are:


  • Beech – consisting of 5 species of Southern Beech
  • Podocarp hardwood forests, this includes –
  • Rimu
  • Tōtara
  • Miro
  • Kahikatea
  • Mataī


These trees house many of New Zealand’s unique biodiversity. Biodiversity that isn’t seen anywhere else in the world. Which is why tree planting in New Zealand is crucially important.


A collection of birds, reptiles and invertebrates dwell in our unique forestry. They depend on it for survival.


It’s no surprise that with loss of forest, we have seen a decline in animal population numbers too.


In fact, it has been said that New Zealand has the highest proportion of threatened indigenous species in the world.


Here are the 2019 numbers for threatened species;

  • 82% of beetles
  • 75% of freshwater fish
  • 62% of marine mammals
  • 88% of lizards
  • 95% of snails
  • 50% of plants


Numbers of this scale aren’t seen anywhere else.


What is so wonderful about New Zealand’s endemic species, is that they can’t be found anywhere else in the world.


If they cease to exist here, then sadly, they will be lost forever.


40% of plants and 70% of animals, live only here, in Aotearoa.


We can only protect them by building on these precious eco-systems that they rely on. As well as preserving those that already stand.


As of today’s date 9th July 2021 (to any future readers) our current native tree offering is the Silver Beech Tree.


The reasons we have opted to plant Silver Beech are many.


Firstly, they are conducive to our planting sites.


Secondly, they grow really well in shaded, cool areas.


Thirdly, they promote biodiversity, offering the perfect shelter to indigenous forest dwelling animals.


Silver Beech and most Beech species grow well as a monoculture forest. Almost half of all forests where beech trees are present, have only Beech trees within them.


However, our native tree of choice will differ depending on the planting sites. It is of the utmost importance that we choose the right tree for the right place.


So that we can ensure long-term survival. As well as the assurance for our donators that their trees will live for hundreds if not thousands of years.


The forests we plant, will always be legally protected. We also promise on-going maintenance of our forests to ensure survival.


The cost to plant native trees with us is $15NZD. The cost of which covers land price, seedling costs, nursery costs, wages, and on-going maintenance of your tree!


See more on our why it matters page.

Native forest

The Untold Beauty of Exotic Forestry

We understand the topic of exotic forestry will likely ruffle some feathers.


Please bear with us, and let us explain why exotic forestry might be the smoking gun we all need. It is also a crucial element of tree planting in New Zealand.


There are two types of exotic forestry.


The type you’ve come to know, with all its horror stories.


And the exotic forestry within our planting plan.


They’re likely two very different versions of the same tale.  


Under the wrong circumstance and execution, exotic forestry, can be and is, detrimental to our natural environment.


The trouble with exotic forestry is that it is used almost exclusively for commercial, short-rotation, monoculture forestry.


Which destroys eco-systems and destabilises soil.


Even in areas where exotic forests have been planted to stablise soil erosion, the trees are being harvested once again.


Which can only lead us down a path of further destruction. Opening us up to even more problems in the future.


One more thing to mention is the invasive nature of most exotic trees. Radiata Pine being a favourite choice within commercial forestry.


The concern being exotic seeds that are spread naturally will outcompete any local native trees.


Whilst there are ways to manage the risk of seed spread, this isn’t something TreeTime has to worry about. Keep on reading to see why.

new zealand lake

Onto the Positives...

Okay, so the bad stuff is out of the way. Time to focus on the positives!


You’ll be relieved to know the positives (for us and our planting plan) far out weight the negatives. Where as far as we can see, there aren’t any!


The Climate Change Commission has recommended a total of 380,000 hectares of exotic forestry be planted before 2035.


Currently New Zealand has approx.. 2.1 million hectares of exotic forestry. Most of which is productive (commercial).


It may come as a surprise to many that the Climate Change Commission calls for many more exotic trees than natives.


This is mostly down to the speed in which exotic trees grow, and sequester carbon. Which Native trees simply can’t compete with.


We’re in a fragile moment in time.


We need to act quickly to mitigate the effects of climate change. An efficient and effective way to do that… is by planting exotic trees.


Just like our native tree, our tree choice may differ dependant on the planting location. This is one of the most important factors when planting trees in New Zealand or anywhere else in the world.


If you do not take the planting site into consideration, it can have terrible ramifications. In addition, it simply may not sequester as much CO2 as in an area it is conducive to.


However, several factors will always remain the same:

  • The species will be non-invasive (they will not spread their seed)
  • They will be permanently protected under legal covenant
  • They will be inter-planted with natives (more on this in the next section)


Our current exotic tree offering (as of 9th July 2021) is the Attenuata Hybrid. Which you can plant for as little as $9.

tree planting in new zealand

Interplanting, what is it?

We have two main goals to address.


Reduction of atmospheric CO2 and promotion of biodiversity.


By inter-planting native and exotic trees, we can tackle both goals, and this is how it will go…


Our trees will be planted on a 70/30 ratio in favour of exotics.


The faster growing exotic trees will nurse the slower-growing native trees, making them easier to establish.


By planting 70% exotics, we will be able to sequester large quantities of CO2 fast. And even exotics contribute to low level of biodiversity!  


As the natives sprout up underneath the protective canopy of our exotics, biodiversity will flourish. Bringing in an exciting assortment of flora and fauna.


The trees will grow together peacefully for some 150 years. When the exotics will naturally begin to die off.


Resulting in permanent native forest. A permanent carbon store and mass homes to our indigenous creatures.

Planting Plan Devised by Ecologists

This interplanting plan was devised by local ecologists, Thomas Consultants. The very people who have our nation’s best interest as heart.  It took many twists and turns to get us to this point. But, we couldn’t be prouder.


As our cause grows, we will expand to new planting locations. As we do, our tree choices will change. But the plan will remain the same. Our goals will be unwavering. We will address skyrocketing atmospheric CO2 levels, and loss of biodiversity.


Tree planting in New Zealand is an important part of the road map to a sustainable future for Kiwi’s. As well as the rest of the world.


As we have said before, climate change knows no boundaries, it doesn’t matter where the trees are planted. As long as they are. Where else better to plant them, than here in beautiful Aotearoa. Where we are blessed with some of the best tree planting conditions in the world.

TreeTime App tree info page

How You Can Help

Our tree planting method was devised in such a way, that would empower people just like you, to make a difference.


With the TreeTime App, you can plant trees within a few clicks.


It’s never been easier to do your part and become a part of an ever-growing movement to mitigate climate change.  


When building the app, with you our users in mind. Transparency was at the heart of every decision we made.


We made sure the experience doesn’t conclude after the donation has been made.


The experience should be on-going. This is where our clever drones come in.


Enabling us to provide you with exact planting coordinates, and regular photos of your tree. So you know, your tree is still alive and growing!


You won’t need to ever worry again if your tree has been cut down!


So, go ahead, log into your TreeTime account. Choose to plant a tree for either carbon capture or biodiversity promotion (or why not both!) and you’re on your way.


Oh, and don’t forget to check your CO2 stats which are updated daily!

tree planting in new zealand


We have unpacked a great deal of information in this post.

If you have any questions about what you’ve read here, feel free to contact us on We’re always happy to have a chat and help demystify the highly complex beast that is tree planting.

Please scoot on over to our web app here. Or download our app on the App Store or Google Play.

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