Plant trees to harvest
Radiata pine is the main species grown commercially for harvesting and profit. Small quantities of Douglas fir, other pine species, eucalypts, cypress and redwoods are also grown to harvest.
On this page
Radiata pine (pinus radiata) is our most commonly grown plantation forest species. Radiata timber has a broad range of uses and can be profitable for owners, even in small quantities.
Radiata pine tolerates a wide range of site conditions. Radiata seedlings are the cheapest and easiest to plant and have a high survival rate. There is an established infrastructure and industry in place for Radiata pine, such as mills and experienced planting crews, and there is a ready market for selling the timber.
The New Zealand Farm Forestry Association has information on growing Radiata pine.
Land access and location
You need good access for planting, maintenance and logging trucks. Make sure your planting site:
- is suitable for the species you are considering planting
- can be accessed for both establishment and harvesting
- can be harvested with sound environmental practices and conventional methodology
- is close to domestic and export market points – long distance transport is expensive and can impact your profits.
Costs over time
Trees and forests are a long term investment. It may be expensive to change your mind once you've started.
Before you begin consider costs for:
- land preparation
- pest control
- post-plant weed control
- managing your forest
- roading infrastructure required for pre-establishment, tending and harvesting
Each of the stages in the lifecycle of a forest has costs associated with it – and some costs will be significant particularly during the harvesting phase. We advise obtaining a feasibility study for any large projects before commencing.
Current planting species ratio
The following table shows the species split of our plantation forests.
Alternative species that are not Radiata pine
Native (indigenous) plant species are purpose built for our climate but many exotic (non-native) species also do well here.
Before you plant an alternative species
Our commercial industry has been built around Radiata pine. You need to make sure there is:
- a market for your timber
- someone you can hire to harvest and mill it.
Before planting, make sure you can answer the following questions:
- What will the wood be used for?
- Who can I sell the timber to?
- Who can harvest my small woodlot?
- Is there a sawmill in my area that can process my logs?
- Would I need to store and dry my timber before being able to sell it?
- Is the species I’m looking to plant already growing in my area? There may need to be a critical mass of the same species growing in the same area for it to be profitable.
Farm Forestry's specialty timbers section has more information including:
- a marketplace listing buyers for logs and standing timber
- uses and applications for speciality timber.
Planting native species
If you're considering growing native trees for timber you need to know that:
- they grow very slowly when compared to Radiata pine and eucalyptus
- the market price for native timber is high but the market demand is small and it can be hard to sell
- there are regulations around the export of native timber and native timber products
- you can register your planting with Te Uru Rākau – New Zealand Forest Service and get a Planted indigenous forest certificate. This lets you harvest your trees later.
The Ministry for Primary Industries website has more information about harvesting and exporting native trees.
Planting other exotic (non-native) tree species
Other species that grow successfully include:
- Douglas fir
Note that different species of cypress, acacia and eucalyptus are suited to different climatic conditions and have pest and disease resistance.
Douglas fir has an average commercial rotation of 45 to 50 years. It produces high quality structural timber and is mainly grown in the South Island.
There is a high risk of wildings when planting Douglas fir as the seeds are easily dispersed by the wind.
Check your wilding risk using the Wilding tree risk calculator. Farm Forestry New Zealand, and the Forest Growers Research also have information on Douglas fir.
Eucalypts have an average commercial rotation of 30 to 35 years although some are grown on a shorter rotation (15 to 18+ years) for the chip and fibre markets. They can yield valuable timber and require careful siting and species selection. Often a site will need different species on the steep slopes to the mid slopes to the wetter gully bottoms. This type of planting requires good planning and careful planting.
Farm Forestry New Zealand has information on growing eucalypts including species and site selection, managing, harvesting, and links to further resources. New Zealand Dryland Forests Initiative is a collaborative research and development programme looking at durable eucalypts. They have many resources and information for growers.
Redwoods have an average commercial rotation of 35 years. They are site sensitive and grow best in sheltered, inland sites. They can be marketed in New Zealand and California.
Farm Forestry New Zealand has information on growing redwoods including a handbook, species information and a calculator.
Forest Growers Research has calculators which may help with decision making, including a:
- forecaster calculator for Radiata pine and Douglas fir
- woodlot analysis tool designed to provide an estimate of your return after harvesting a small woodlot.
Choosing the right tree
Scion have produced a brochure with information on different species to consider when planting trees for timber.