Since 1990,a quarter of a million hectares of planted forest have been established or re-established in New Zealand — most of it radiata, which makes up 1,572,000 hectares or 90 per cent of total plantings. One-third of the world's radiata forests are grown in New Zealand. Other major producers are Australia and Chile.
Many of these forests were planted for soil and water conservation reasons on erosion-prone hill country which was formerly in sheep and cattle pasture.
Once young radiata become established, they rapidly stabilise steep hillsides, protecting the soil and regulating the rate at which water is able to run off the land. The vegetative litter on the forest floor acts as a sponge — holding and slowly releasing water for many days after the last rainfall. This helps prevent destructive flooding.
Third party certification of sustainable management practices plays an increasingly important role in NZ plantation forest management. Half of the country's plantations and one-third of the annual harvest are already third party certified, with the most popular being the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) system.
On average, radiata pines grown in New Zealand are harvested at 29 years. The timber has excellent nailing, gluing and painting properties and is also used as a feedstock for the manufacture of paper and industrial packaging materials.