What is the extent of Nelson City Council’s commercial forestry land holdings?

The Council has invested in and been involved in managing forestry interests since the 1940s and these are held as long-term investments.

Council owns around 700 hectares of production forest land spread across four blocks: Maitai, Marsden, Brook and Roding.

Maitai: 186.8 hectares
The Maitai Forest is made up from several small blocks, which stretch from several kilometres to the east of the city for approximately 10 kilometres on the Maitai Valley Road.

Approximately a quarter of the stocked area falls within the Maitai water reserve area. The remaining forest areas are on predominately steep hill country, which drops down into the Maitai River. Although these areas fall outside of the physical water catchment area, they have been regarded as buffer zones for the catchment.

Some of the Maitai stands are recommended for retirement for alternative land use, mainly those in proximity to the Maitai River or the Maitai Dam. There is some recreation activity through these forests, including some mountain biking trails and a section of the Coppermine Trail.

Marsden: 142.4 hectares
Marsden Forest is located four kilometres southeast of Stoke at the end of the sealed Marsden Valley Road.

The main plantation is on north-facing slopes on the Barnicoat Range between Jenkins Hill and Saxton Hill. The forest bounds a reserve on the north-eastern side with farmland to the west and neighbouring exotic forest plantation to the south.

The forest attracts a range of recreation activities, primarily accessed through Glider Road. This includes walking, running, paragliding and access to popular mountain bike trails such as Involution. A stand of Douglas fir on the higher slopes is planned to be harvested and replanted in radiata pine.

Brook (includes York Forest & College Block): 132.4 hectares
The Brook Forest is located in four separate blocks: one is a backdrop to the Brook Valley, another is further up the Brook Valley on steep hill country, a third is located in York Valley behind Bishopdale (part of the York Valley Block is on land designated for refuse disposal), and the fourth area is a north-facing slope located on the Grampians, above a residential area of Nelson City.

These areas are heavily used for recreation including the Grampians, Codgers Trails and the Coppermine Trail. The majority of forestry stands in the Brook are recommended for retiring for alternative land use, with the exception of the blocks on Fringed Hill.

Roding: 232.5 hectares
Roding Forest is located approximately 13 kilometres east of Richmond at the end of the metalled Aniseed Valley Road. The forest is within the waterworks reserve and is bounded by reserve on all but the south-western boundary, which is exotic pine plantation. The topography is generally very steep, and the altitude rises up to 900 metres.

Recreation is less common in these areas due to the distance from urban areas, however Roding has a rich mining history and there are a number of remnants. Walking and mountain biking is popular, albeit on a smaller scale.

Read Nelson City Council’s Forestry Activity Management Plan. (1.4MB PDF)

What is Council’s policy for commercial forestry?

Council’s commercial forestry is managed under the umbrella of the Council’s Treasury Management Policy, which stipulates that the current policy for commercial forestry is:

  • To not purchase land for forestry purposes, nor plant more commercial forests other than replanting;
  • Endorse and observe the provisions of the New Zealand Forest Accord (August 1991);
  • Comply with the National Environmental Standard on Plantation Forestry;
  • Contract out forestry management to an independent forest manager;
  • Comply with and maintain Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC) certification;
  • Manage its forest estate on a sustainable basis, to maximise net present value and to implement best-practice forest industry standards whilst protecting environmental and recreational values; and
  • To fulfil its obligations under the NZ Emissions Trading Scheme (as set out in the Liability Management Policy).

What species are planted?

In the commercial forestry portfolio, the majority species is radiata pine, with some Douglas fir (which Council plans to harvest and replant in alternative indigenous or production forest species), cypress, redwood (and other softwoods) and eucalypts (and other hardwoods).

How is Nelson City Council’s forestry managed?

The Forestry Subcommittee (formally the Forestry Advisory Group) considers all matters relating to the commercial forestry operational portfolio, including environmental and recreational issues. This includes approving forestry and harvesting management strategies and plans and the engagement of contractors/consultants and forestry managers.

The day-to-day management of the Council’s forestry estate is currently carried out under contract by PF Olsen.

As detailed in the Forestry Stewardship Council Management Plan, as forest owners, Nelson City Council is committed to ensuring that Maitai, Marsden, Brook, and Roding forests will be managed to:

  • Grow trees and produce logs for the manufacturing of different wood products in New Zealand and overseas with a focus on “fit for purpose” log production;
  • Ensure the productivity of the land does not decline;
  • Ensure environmental values are identified and maintained, including the protection of the water supply catchments;
  • Ensure historic sites are identified and protected;
  • Ensure other forest values and products are identified, protected and, where possible, enhanced;
  • Ensure the forest estate’s contribution to carbon cycles is maintained or enhanced;
  • Harvest the trees as close as possible to their economic optimum age and achieve the best possible financial returns to the owners;
  • Replant following harvesting where agreements require;
  • Meet all statutory requirements and comply with forest industry best practice;
  • Provide recreational opportunities in coordination with agreed Council parks and recreation management strategies derived in consultation with user groups;
  • Act as a good corporate citizen and neighbour; and
  • Ensure all forest management practices are consistent with the principles of the Forest Stewardship Council and NZS AS:4708:2014 (please see how the environmental impact of forestry is managed below for more information).

How much of the productive forestry is scheduled to be retired?

Management of the commercial forestry estate is driven by the recommendations of a 2016 review report (and approved by Council) to retain and sustainably manage the majority of productive commercial forests (and replant in pine once harvested), and to retire approximately 25% of the commercial forest (over 140ha) for alternate use. These alternate uses include managed indigenous regeneration and replanting in indigenous species.

What are the financial returns for forestry?

Over the last 10 years commercial forestry has returned on average $715,000/annum to Council. The average Return-on-Investment (ROI) to Council over this 10-year period is 11.4% (excluding fixed asset additions) or 12.2% (including fixed asset additions). The current tree crop valuation is $7.115M. Forestry assets are valued at fair value, less estimated costs to sell for one growth cycle. The valuation is undertaken annually each year and reported to the Forestry Subcommittee.

Where does the money made from forestry go?

Forestry operates as a closed account. This means that any costs occurred by forestry are paid for from this account and any profits, including changes in the valuation of the forestry, sit in the account as a surplus.  

It is important to highlight that the forestry account pays for projects that have a wider benefit to the community. For example, bridges in the Maitai (recently completed) and Roding (about to commence) help with forestry harvesting, but they are also used for recreational purposes, provide safe access in emergencies, and protect the quality and ecosystems of our streams and rivers. Work done on clearing trees from the Dun Mountain to ensure safety of residential properties is another example of where forestry provides a wider benefit, as this work was paid for from the forestry account and allows the area to be enjoyed safely for recreational use.

Why doesn’t forestry return a dividend?

Dividends are normally paid in a situation where you have two separate organisations, with one owned by the other. An example of this is Port Nelson Ltd, which returns dividends to both Nelson City Council and Tasman District Council annually. Our forestry operation is not run as a separate company or organisation. Instead, it is run in-house, meaning that a dividend is neither paid nor required –all profits sit as a surplus in the forestry account. 

How does Council manage any environmental impact of forestry?

Council understands both the financial importance of commercial forestry, but also the need to implement best-practice industry standards to manage our forests sustainably and to protect both environmental and recreational values. The goal in the Forestry Activity Management Plan reflects this. 

Council has recently also obtained Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification. As a FSC group member, Council is committed to sustainable forest and land management, and the promotion of high environmental performance standards that recognise the input of the community in which we operate. Council is also committed to supporting continuous improvement in environmental performance. 

For more information about the Forest Stewardship Council certification and Council’s Management Plan please visit: https://shape.nelson.govt.nz/FSC-management-plan

How does Council ensure its forests are harvested correctly?

Council’s forestry manager, PF Olsen, manages Council’s forestry in line with, and in most cases above, the National Environmental Standards for Plantation Forestry (NES-PF). The NES-PF came into force in May 2018 and provides a consistent set of regulations for all of New Zealand. The regulations are linked to the erosion susceptibility of the land and the risk involved in forestry operations. 

How does the amount of land Council holds in forestry compare with other land use?

Council’s commercial forestry land holdings are small in comparison to other commercial forestry land holdings. For example, if you consider the entire Maitai/Brook catchment, Council’s ongoing production forests are 1.5% of the total catchment area, and 7.1% of the total ongoing production forestry area in the catchment.

Land use

Area (ha)

NCC forest area planned for ongoing production


NCC exotic being converted to permanent forest


Other production forest owners


Natural forest


Grassland & Cropland


Grassland with woody biomass






Total catchment area


What is the benefit of forestry to the local economy?

Notwithstanding Council’s modest commercial forestry holdings, forestry provides a significant contribution to the region’s economy. The logging supply chain is extensive and includes Port Nelson (exports), logging harvesters, logging transportation, sawmills and end-product manufacturers. Price Waterhouse Cooper estimates that the annual total value chain per 1,000 ha of forestry is around 40 full-time  FTE’s. This equates to around 20-25 FTE’s for Council’s forestry blocks alone. The four commercial forests all provide, in addition to timber generated incomes, various recreational opportunities, whether they be mountain biking, hiking or general walking tracks.