Resource consents

Some forest activities require resource consent. Some activities are regulated under the National Environmental Standards for Commercial Forestry and some councils also require resource consent for certain activities like vegetation clearance.

Check if you need resource consent

If you’re going to plant more than 1 hectare of trees for harvest, you need to check if you need resource consent.

Check your council rules

Check with your local city or district council if there are any vegetation clearance or planting rules, or local body regulations. These could limit your ability to plant.

Check the National Environmental Standards for Commercial Forestry (NES-CF) activity conditions

Many forestry activities under the NES-CF are permitted if conditions set out in the regulations are met. If you cannot meet the conditions, then you require resource consent.

Erosion risk

You need to understand the erosion risk on your land to determine how you manage forestry activities. If it is a high risk, then you will need a resource consent for certain activities. The Ministry for Primary Industries has information and an online tool to help with this.

Wilding tree risk

If you’re planting a conifer species, you will need to do a wilding tree risk spread assessment. The Ministry for Primary Industries has information and a tool for assessing risk.

Significant natural areas or areas of outstanding natural landscape

You cannot plant in a significant natural area or an outstanding natural feature or landscape without resource consent. Check council maps to see if you have any of these areas on your land.

Plant within specified setbacks

The NES-CF specifies setbacks from certain areas, and you will not be able to plant in these. For example, if you are planting next to:

  • roads
  • neighbouring properties
  • significant natural areas
  • water bodies and wetlands.

The NES-CF regulations provide more details on these requirements.

Notify your council before planting

Provide written notice to your council of the location, proposed setbacks and dates your planting will start and end.

The NES-CF regulations provide more detail on what councils need to know.

Regulations under the Resource Management Act

The NES-CF sets out national regulations to manage the environmental effects of forestry.

The NES-CF applies to any forest of at least 1 hectare that is a plantation forest or an exotic continuous-cover forest as defined by the regulations. It does not include:

  • shelter belts
  • forest species in urban areas
  • nurseries and seed orchards
  • trees grown for fruit or nuts
  • long term ecological planting of forest species
  • willows and poplars planted for soil conservation purposes.

The NES-CF regulations cover 8 core commercial forestry activities that have potential environmental effects:

  • planting new forest (afforestation)
  • pruning and thinning to waste (selective felling of trees where the felled trees remain on site)
  • earthworks
  • river crossings
  • extraction of rock, sand, or gravel within a plantation forest or for operation of a forest on adjacent land (forestry quarrying)
  • harvesting
  • mechanical land preparation
  • replanting.

The National Environmental Standards for Planatation Forestry (NES-PF) regulations recently changed to the NES-CF regulations. The NES-CF regulations came into effect on the 3 November 2023.

The Resource Management (National Environmental Standards for Commercial Forestry) 2023 will be available on the New Zealand Legislation website soon. Until then, the NES-CF Amendment Regulations can be read alongside the NES-PF Regulations.