Land use design

Anyone who owns or manages large areas of land is faced with a multiplicity of complex choices. However, maintaining and building production capacity does not need to come at the expense of environmental integrity, and when the two work together even greater value results.

At Scion we see our role as enabling the primary sector to improve productivity with minimum impact, by developing the best possible land use options within a strong economic context based on biophysical information and knowledge.

As specialists in woody vegetation we obviously have unique expertise in the most appropriate locations for forests of all types, and the best mix with other land uses. However our breadth of expertise and collaborative approach enables us to see the big picture in terms of land use capability.

Our key capabilities 

  • Environmental science
  • Forestry
  • Economics
  • Operations research
  • Applied mathematics
  • Decision science
  • Risk analysis 
  • Optimisation
  • Heuristics
  • Geomatics

Applications of our research

Land Use Optimisation Studies 

Scion undertook a land use optimisation study for Ngati Whakaue Tribal Lands to support the development of their land management strategy across three large properties in the Rotorua basin. The resulting scenarios accounted for the environmental impacts and expected financial returns of various land use activities.

Decision Tools 

Our work on a land use decision tool for the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry now enables a more sophisticated approach to developing land use options.

Traditionally land use modelling has taken a linear, economics based approach, building scenarios around combinations of activity such as all beef or all trees, or 20% beef/40% trees.

Our decision tool determines the best result under a range of constraints, for example the best economic return with the minimum erosion and nitrate leaching. It takes account of factors such as climate, topography, productivity surfaces, erosion risk, crop types and environmental impacts and so on, to produce a range of options for the land owner to consider.

Designing Functional Forests 

We are identifying where in New Zealand to put different forests for different uses, assessing the best locations for forests for erosion control, water management, biodiversity, nitrate management and carbon forestry.


Scion can assist land owners and managers to make good decisions on how best to use their land. This knowledge is of value to regional councils looking to mitigate environmental impacts by designing new landscapes, forestry companies, or to iwi trusts and incorporations looking to develop long term strategies for tribal lands.