Indigenous Forests

New Zealand's 6.4 million hectares of indigenous forest are located mainly in the mountain lands, particularly on the West Coast of the South Island.

These indigenous forests are a key part of New Zealand's environment and help protect the natural values of our ecosystem, so they are largely protected from logging.

Currently only 0.01 million m3/ha indigenous species are harvested annually, compared to over 18 million m3 exotic species.

While supporting the need to conserve natural forests, Scion advocates that many indigenous species can be grown specifically for timber production.

Our planted indigenous research programme covers many aspects of indigenous forestry from species selection to timber qualities.


We have identified several key species as viable forestry resources, totara (Podocarpus totara) being one species of particular value. Totara is one of our most widely distributed indigenous softwood timber trees throughout montane forest in New Zealand.

The timber qualities of totara are highly valued both for traditional and contemporary uses. With most supplies of totara suitable for timber now exhausted or in reserves, there is wide interest in establishing and managing plantations of totara.

Current research

Scion is developing a strategy to improve totara through selection to investigate differences in growth and tree form between geographically separated populations (provenances).

This is especially relevant for the planting and management of totara where the aim is the long-term production of high-quality timber.

The research has important partnerships with Maori, Tane’s Tree Trust and the Northland Totara Working Group.

Information for growers

Scion has produced a series of popular handbooks about growing native trees commercially. Titles include Totara, Kauri, Pohutukawa, Native trees and the Tane’s Tree Trust Handbook.

To obtain a copy of these bulletins, email us at