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.

Radiata pine

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.

Radiata pine (pinus radiata) – Farm Forestry New Zealand

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.
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Quick tip
Keeping access for harvest as easy as possible is essential for a profitable return. Access roads for harvest need to be of a high standard and construction costs are high.

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
  • planting
  • post-plant weed control
  • managing your forest
  • roading infrastructure required for pre-establishment, tending and harvesting
  • 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.

Species Percentage grown
Radiata pine 90%
Douglas fir 6%
Eucalypts 2%
Other 2%
Species
Radiata pine
Percentage grown
90%
Species
Douglas fir
Percentage grown
6%
Species
Eucalypts
Percentage grown
2%
Species
Other
Percentage grown
2%

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.
Speciality Timbers New Zealand – Farm Forestry New Zealand

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.

Native (indigenous) forests – Ministry for Primary Industries Harvesting and milling native (indigenous) timber – Ministry for Primary Industries

Planting other exotic (non-native) tree species

Other species that grow successfully include:

  • Douglas fir
  • Eucalyptus
  • Redwood
  • Cypress
  • Acacia.

Note that different species of cypress, acacia and eucalyptus are suited to different climatic conditions and have pest and disease resistance.

Douglas fir

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.

Wilding conifers Wilding tree risk calculator – Ministry for Primary Industries Douglas fir, Pseudotsuga menziesii – Farm Forestry New Zealand Douglas fir information for growers – Forest Growers Research

Eucalyptus

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.

Growing Eucalypts for timber, videos and information – Farm Forestry New Zealand Eucalyptus, information resources – Farm Forestry New Zealand New Zealand Dryland Forests Initiative

Redwoods

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.

Redwood information resources – Farm Forestry New Zealand

Forestry calculators

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.
Calculators – Forest Growers Research

Choosing the right tree

Scion have produced a brochure with information on different species to consider when planting trees for timber.

Choosing the right tree – Scion