At the time Europeans began coming to New Zealand, about 70% of the land was forest. The major indigenous tree species are beech, kauri, rimu, taraire, and tawa. This proportion has been reduced by settlement, farming, and exploitation to about 29%. Much of the remaining natural forest is reserved in national parks, or as protected forest on mountain land. About 5% of New Zealand is covered by planted forests, which provides a large and sustainable volume of wood. The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) estimated the planted forest area at 1.8 million ha (4.4 million acres) in 2001, with 71% on North Island and 29% on South Island.
For wood production, New Zealand relies heavily on its planted forests of quick-growing exotic species, mainly radiata pine, which can be harvested every 25–30 years. These provide over 90% of the wood for production of sawn timber, wood panel products, pulp, paper, and paperboard. Due to these replanting efforts and privatization of forest lands, exports of softwood logs have skyrocketed since the early 1980s. Exports of forestry products in 2001 amounted to $1.67 billion. Most of New Zealand's softwood logs and lumber go to Australia, the ROK, and Japan. Forestry accounts for about 4% of GDP. Imports of forest products consist mostly of specialty papers.
The MAF put roundwood production in 2001 at an estimated 19,418,000 cu m (685.5 million cu ft). Softwood logs for export and lumber production that year were estimated at 6.9 million and 3.9 million cu m (137.7 million cu ft), respectively. Plywood production for 2001 was estimated at 190,000 cu m (6.7 million cu ft).
The Forestry Corporation (FC) was established as a state-owned enterprise in April 1991. The FC manages 188,000 ha (465,000 acres) of forest in the Bay of Plenty on North Island. The FC consists of three principal forests: Rotoehu Forest, Whakarewarewa Forest, and the Kaingaroa Forest in the Rotorua district that covers 149,735 ha (370,001 acres) and is claimed to be the largest planted forest in the world. In 1996, the government sold FC for NZ $2 billion to a joint venture consortium, which planned to invest NZ $260 million over the next several years.