Retiring Farmland into Ngahere

Restoring Aotearoa together: Triple the area, at one-third the cost

Geoff Reid

Project Details Ngā taipitopito

Project Status:
Challenge funding:
Research duration:
July 2022 – December 2022

Collaborators Ngā haumi

Balanced Forestry | Doug McCready | Jan Hania | Manu Caddie | Manuka Farming NZ | Pa Ropata (Rob Mc Gowan) | Pukekauri Farms | Rewhenua | Te Kapunga Dewes | Timothy Firkin Films | Tipu Whenua | Wai Kokopu

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What are we doing?E aha ana mātou?

When less productive farmland is ‘retired’ into ngahere (bush or forest) there can be positive impacts on water quality, greenhouse gas emissions, farm management and profitability.

This project builds on 10 years of results from a Primary Growth Partnership that retired over 400ha of marginal land into manuka plantations for honey, then applied that knowledge to broader land retirement into mixed natives on steep erosion-prone slopes, riparian margins, and critical source areas. This work identified potential savings of more than 50% of the current cost to establish native plantations, by replicating the natural reversion process.

This project will create short videos and graphics sharing best-practice methods for low-cost, broad-scale land retirement into ngahere, covering important factors including: weed and pest control before planting, mix of forestry-grade coloniser species, planting density for various tree species, soil biome, and establishment timelines.

How can the research be used? Ka pēhea e whai take ai te rangahau?

  • The educational resource and application of knowledge has the potential to reduce the cost of ngahere establishment by $10,000 per ha which equates to a $10 billion saving over 1,000,000ha.
  • The project will develop a visual digital resource for use by farmers, catchment groups and regional councils, showing the best-practice methods to undertake low-cost, broad-scale land retirement into ngahere.
  • A series of short videos and graphics will showcase successful low-cost native plantation examples, and how to do it successfully.
  • This resource will capture the key successes, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats of using forestry techniques and forestry-grade plants to establish native plantations.

Related research updates Ngā pānui mō te rangahau nei

Research team Te hunga i whai wāhi mai

Project Lead/Science Lead
Alison Dewes
John Burke
Pukekauri Farms
Bronwyn Douglas
Balanced Forestry
Tim Firkin
Documentary Filmmaker

Tools & resources Ngā utauta me ngā rauemi


Lower Cost Native Restoration of Farmland: Tīmata Method Fact Sheet

This six-page fact sheet on the Tīmata Method has been developed for New Zealand land owners. The Tīmata Method, which in Māori translates to begin,…
View Method

The Tīmata Method: A low-cost way to retire farmland into native forest

Restoring erodible land in New Zealand into native forests can be a challenging and costly process, limiting private landowners’ participation in large-scale projects. However, there…
View Video
Technical Report

Retiring Farmland into Ngahere

The purpose of this report, fact sheet and information video is to introduce successful low-cost native planting methods which can be used as an educational…
View Technical Report

In the media Mai i te ao pāpaho

Farmers Weekly
“It is estimated NZ has about 1 million hectares of land that could be retired into natives. The Timata method represents savings of $20 billion across the country in achieving that"
Rural Delivery, 20 May 2023
Farmer’s Weekly, 27 November 2023

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