Land use and the loss of native vegetation

In Aotearoa New Zealand, land covered with native vegetation ranges from vast areas of conservation land to small isolated stands of regenerating bush on farms and in cities.

In 2018, about half (49 per cent) of our country’s land area was covered with native ecosystems and the other half (51 per cent) with farms, pasture and plantation (exotic) forests.

The area of land covered with native ecosystems continues to shrink as land is cleared for agriculture or forestry.

Some types of native land cover are more at risk than others. Scrub tussocks, wetlands and lowland forests are particularly vulnerable because they are often located in areas that are suitable for agriculture and housing.

While scrub, shrubland and tussock grassland have seen the greatest losses in recent decades native forest continues to be removed in some regions including the West Coast and Southland.

In Southland 157 hectares of wetland were lost per year between 1990 and 2012, mainly through conversion to pasture.

Find out more in Our land 2021 report

Benefits of native vegetation

Farms benefit from the presence of native vegetation. It can prevent erosion, filter nutrients out of water and reduce damage caused by floods – all of which increase a farm’s sustainability and ability to adapt to change.

In addition to that, farmland that is used less intensively loses fewer nutrients from the soil to freshwater.

Our native ecosystems contribute to our sense of wellbeing and are home to many of our iconic native plants and animals.

Find out more in Our land 2021 report

Find out more about land and our wellbeing in Our land 2021 report 

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