Reforestation in NZ
March 6, 2023

Reforestation in NZ

Reforestation is the process of restoring forests to mitigate the effects of climate change. Read this blog to find out all about reforestation.

What is reforestation?

Reforestation is the process of planting new trees or restoring existing forests in areas where the forest cover has been lost or damaged due to natural or human activities. Reforestation aims to improve the quality and quantity of forest resources, enhance biodiversity, mitigate climate change, and provide ecological services such as soil conservation, water regulation, and carbon sequestration.

Reforestation can involve various approaches, such as natural regeneration, where trees grow back naturally after a disturbance, and assisted natural regeneration, which consists of removing competing plants to allow natural regeneration. It can also involve planting trees by hand or using aerial or mechanical planting methods.

What are examples of reforestation?


Here are some major reforestation projects taking place around the world:

Costa Rica's Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES) program: Costa Rica's PES program has been recognised as one of the most successful reforestation programs in the world. It involves paying landowners to plant trees, protect existing forests, conserve biodiversity, mitigate climate change, and improve water quality.

China's Grain for Green program: China's Grain for Green program was launched in 1999 as a part of The Bonn Challenge to address soil erosion and improve water quality in the country's rural areas. The program offers subsidies to farmers to convert marginal farmland into forests or grasslands, to restore ecological function and improve livelihoods.

Brazil's Amazon Fund: Brazil's Amazon Fund was established in 2008 to support the conservation and sustainable development of the Amazon rainforest. The fund supports various activities, including reforestation, sustainable agriculture, and community development.

New Zealand

Several reforestation initiatives have been launched in New Zealand to repair degraded forests, safeguard biodiversity, and reduce climate change. Here are a few illustrations:

Billion Trees Program: a government-led initiative, which was established in 2018, seeks to plant one billion trees in New Zealand by the year 2028. With a focus on native tree species, the initiative consists of various public and private sector tree-planting projects.

Hinewai Reserve: On Banks Peninsula, a community-led reforestation initiative is managed by a local conservation trust, which entails converting degraded farmland back into a native forest environment.

The Predator-Free New Zealand: This initiative seeks to rid the nation of invasive predators, including rats, stoats, and possums, by the year 2050. The effort aims to conserve native bird populations by getting rid of these predators and fostering the regrowth of native forests.

Reforestation and afforestation

Reforestation and afforestation are both strategies for expanding forest cover, but they have different specialised goals and techniques.

Reforestation is restoring or replanting forests in previously wooded regions that have lost their tree cover due to natural or human-caused factors, such as logging, fires, or changes in land use. Reforestation's main objectives are either to increase the quantity and quality of forest resources or to return degraded or deforested regions to their former condition of forest cover. Reforestation might entail manually planting trees, using airborne or mechanical techniques, or it can involve natural regeneration, in which disturbed trees grow back on their own.

Alternatively, afforestation entails creating new forests on previously unforested terrain, such as grasslands, agricultural fields, or urban areas. Afforestation's main objectives are to boost biodiversity, expand forest cover, and provide ecological services such as soil protection, water management, and carbon sequestration. Afforestation might involve manually planting trees, using mechanical, aerial, or airborne means, or letting trees regenerate organically.

So to summarise: "Reforestation includes planting trees or allowing trees to regrow on land that had recently been covered with forest. Afforestation involves planting trees on land that has not recently been covered with forest." - American University

Reforestation and deforestation 

Reforestation and deforestation are two opposing processes that, respectively, result in an increase or decrease in the amount of forest cover.

Deforestation is the removal or destruction of forests for various uses, including logging, mining, agriculture, and urban development. Deforestation's loss of forest cover can severely affect ecosystem services, biodiversity, and the climate system. Deforestation is a significant source of glasshouse gas emissions and is frequently fueled by economic growth and changes in land use.

Deforestation and reforestation are closely related because reforestation initiatives frequently try to replace forest cover in deforested areas. By boosting forest cover and capturing carbon from the atmosphere, reforestation can lessen the effects of deforestation. Reforestation, however, cannot entirely compensate for the loss of ecosystem services and biodiversity brought on by deforestation. As a result, stopping deforestation is essential for safeguarding forest ecosystems and reducing climate change.

Amazon reforestation

The Amazon rainforest, which spans an area of around 5.5 million square kilometres, is the largest in the world. The term "Amazon reforestation" describes initiatives to reforest regions of the Amazon that have undergone degradation or deforestation due to human activities, including logging, mining, and agriculture.

The Amazon rainforest is an important ecosystem that offers a variety of ecological functions, such as the storage of carbon dioxide, control of water flow, and provision of habitat for a wide range of species. Deforestation in the Amazon, however, has long been a serious cause for worry because it adversely affects the livelihoods of indigenous peoples and local communities and these ecological functions.

With the planting of native tree species and encouraging natural regeneration, reforestation operations in the Amazon seek to recover damaged and deforested areas. The restoration of soil health, preservation of water resources, and promotion of sustainable land use practises are all components of reforestation programmes in the Amazon.

The "Amazon Fund" was established by the Brazilian government in 2008 to aid with reforestation efforts in the Amazon. The Brazilian government, international agencies, and private sector businesses collaborate to create the fund, which offers financial support for initiatives to preserve forests, ensure the sustainable use of natural resources, and foster social and economic development in the Amazon region.

What is urban reforestation?

Increasing the number and size of trees and other vegetation in urban environments are referred to as urban reforestation. In urban settings like parks, streets, and public places, it entails planting trees and other plants and caring for them over time. Acoording to One Tree Planted by 2050, 68% of the world’s population (over 6.5 billion people) - will live in urban areas. Therefore, we need to utilise these areas to make a positive environmental impact.

Since cities worldwide struggle with environmental problems like air pollution, heat island effects, and climate change, urban reforestation has assumed a greater significance. Urban areas gain a variety of advantages from trees and other plants, such as better air quality, diminished effects of urban heat islands, and the provision of habitat for wildlife. Also, they can enhance urban people's mental and physical health and have aesthetic and cultural significance.

Urban forestry initiatives can be carried out in various ways, such as establishing community gardens, planting trees in parks and along roadways, and adding green walls and roofs to buildings. Multiple stakeholders, including local governments, community organisations, and for-profit businesses, may start and carry out these projects.

Effective urban reforestation requires careful planning and management to maintain the health and sustainability of the planted vegetation over the long term. This may entail choosing species suited for the region's temperature and soil, ensuring sufficient watering and fertilisation, and safeguarding trees from pests and diseases. Ensure that the advantages of urban reforestation are widely known and appreciated and that maintenance and management responsibilities are shared efficiently. It may also require interacting with local communities and stakeholders.

Benefits of reforestation

The environment, society, and economy all gain immensely from reforestation. The following are some of the main advantages of reforestation:

Climate change mitigation: By photosynthesis, trees take carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere and store it in their biomass and soil. Hence, by lowering atmospheric CO2 levels and sequestering carbon from the atmosphere, reforestation can aid in minimising the effects of climate change.

Conservation of biodiversity: Many plant and animal species, many of which are threatened or endangered, can be found in forests. Reforestation can aid in restoring fragmented or damaged ecosystems, offering wildlife habitat and food sources.

Soil conservation: Trees reduce the risk of landslides and soil degradation by preventing soil erosion and enhancing soil fertility.

Water conservation: By boosting infiltration and lowering runoff, forests regulate water cycles. By reducing sedimentation and nutrient discharge in rivers and streams, reforestation can aid in improving water quality.

Health advantages: Trees have a variety of health advantages, including lowering air pollution. The outcomes of residents' physical and mental health can be improved by reforestation due to the aesthetically pleasing environment they provide for recreational activities such as tramping and cycling.

Cultural benefits: Forests frequently have cultural significance for nearby people because they offer chances for recreation and spirituality. Reforestation can aid in preserving and enhancing traditions and cultural heritage.

Employment opportunities: Reforestation initiatives can lead to jobs in the forestry sector, which involves the planting, caring for, and monitoring trees, as well as in downstream businesses like eco-tourism and timber processing.

Boosted economy: Benefits for the economy include the selling of timber, non-timber forest goods such as fruits, nuts, and medicinal plants, as well as ecotourism ventures. Local communities stand to gain from this, boosting the area's economy.

What are the challenges of reforestation?

Reforestation can be a complex process because of several things, such as:

Land availability: Locating adequate land for reforestation can be difficult, especially in highly populated places with significant demand for land for other purposes, including agriculture, urban growth, and infrastructure.

Climate change: Through shifting rainfall patterns, rising temperatures, and exacerbated drought conditions, climate change can impact the survival and growth of planted trees.

Soil quality: Reforestation may be difficult if the soil has been damaged or contaminated by prior land use practices, such as mining or industrial activity.

Funding: To plant, maintain, and care for trees over the long term, reforestation initiatives need a sizable financial investment. Funding might be challenging to come by, especially for modest-scale forestry projects.

Policy and governance: Reforestation activities may need to be improved without enabling policies and governance structures. To guarantee that reforestation activities are successful and sustainable, policies and regulations must be managed effectively and enforced.

Community engagement: Engaging local stakeholders and communities in forestry projects is essential for long-term success. However, establishing trust and ensuring that local populations are actively involved and invested in the process can be difficult.

To successfully address these issues, various parties must coordinate their efforts, including government agencies, NGOs, local communities, and private sector groups. A long-term commitment is necessary for successful reforestation operations to guarantee damaged ecosystems' survival, growth, and restoration. 

Which country has the highest rate of reforestation?

China has the highest rate of reforestation globally as of 2021. China's State Forestry and Grassland Administration reported that by the end of 2020, forest coverage had increased to 23.04% from under 12% in the 1980s, reflecting the country's current trend of expanding forest cover. The Natural Forest Preservation Program, which attempts to rebuild damaged forest ecosystems and stop deforestation, is one of many policies and programmes the Chinese government has put into place to encourage regeneration. The Three-North Shelterbelt Initiative, which involves planting trees throughout a sizable portion of northern China to ward off desertification and soil erosion, is one of the numerous afforestation initiatives in which the Chinese government has made significant investments. South Korea, India, Ethiopia, and other nations have high reforestation rates.

What NZ government policies support reforestation? 

Numerous initiatives have been put into place by the New Zealand government to aid in national reforestation efforts. Among these regulations are:

One Billion Trees Program: created in 2018, the initiative aims to plant one billion trees by 2028. The programme intends to trap carbon, decrease erosion, enhance water quality, and create jobs. On private and public land, the programme offers financing and assistance for tree planting.

Emissions Trading System (ETS): a market-based strategy for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The ETS enables forest owners to generate carbon credits through reforestation or forest management. After that, the credits can be sold to organisations or nations that need to reduce their emissions.

National Policy Statement for Indigenous Biodiversity (NPS-IB): The NPS-IB offers recommendations for preserving and restoring indigenous biodiversity in New Zealand. Increased quantity, quality, and connectivity of indigenous ecosystems, particularly forests, are the goals of the NPS-IB.

The Sustainable Farming Fund: The Sustainable Farming Fund offers money for studies and initiatives that support environmentally friendly land use methods, such as reforestation—the fund funds financing initiatives to enhance soil health, water quality, and biodiversity.

Regional Afforestation Scheme: This programme offers cash and assistance for establishing forests on erodible land. The initiative aims to increase the quantity of wooded land in New Zealand, decrease soil erosion, and improve water quality.

These regulations show how dedicated the New Zealand government is to reforestation and sustainable land usage. The administration is approaching environmental issues holistically and understands the value of forests in attaining its sustainability objectives.

How can I donate to support reforestation?

Here are some links to reforestation projects in New Zealand:


Trees That Count

WWF New Zealand

Project Crimson

New Zealand Red Cross

Conservation Volunteers New Zealand

In addition to these organisations, several government programs and initiatives focus on reforestation in New Zealand. The Ministry for Primary Industries and the Department of Conservation are key government agencies involved in these efforts. You can find more information about their programs and initiatives on their respective websites:

Ministry for Primary Industries

Department of Conservation


Reforestation is the practice of planting trees in areas where forests have been cut down or destroyed. Many advantages include enhancing biodiversity, reducing climate change, and bolstering the regional economy. Throughout the past several centuries, New Zealand has seen extensive deforestation; nevertheless, many groups and initiatives are currently attempting to reforest the country and restore its natural ecosystems. They include non-profit groups like Trees That Count, WWF New Zealand, Project Crimson and governmental organisations like the Ministry for Primary Industries and the Department of Conservation. Donations to these organisations or participation in neighbourhood planting initiatives are two ways individuals can support reforestation efforts. Reforestation has advantages, but there are also difficulties to overcome, such as a lack of funds and resources, conflicting land uses, and the danger of invasive species. Yet, the efforts of these groups and people are assisting in the restoration of New Zealand's natural heritage and the preservation of the environment for future generations.