This indicator provides information on the area and extent of forests available and/or managed for recreation and tourism activities. The availability and management of forests for these activities is a reflection of society’s recognition of the value of forests for recreation and tourism.
Nearly 33 percent of New Zealand’s land area is formally protected for conservation and recreational purposes (8.8 million hectares out of 26.8 million hectares). Indigenous forests make up a significant proportion of this area. Of the 8.0 million hectares of tall and regenerating indigenous forests, 5.5 million hectares (69 percent) are legally protected for conservation. This is primarily Crown land, but also includes private property that is protected through covenants and other mechanisms.
In determining the area available for recreation and tourism, it is important to recognise that activities such as hunting, orienteering and mountain biking are not confined to public conservation lands. The majority of New Zealand’s commercial forest owners operate permit systems that allow varying degrees of access to their properties. The permit will detail the type of activity that can be undertaken, the forestry blocks that can be accessed and any restrictions on times and the routes to be used. The permit system enables forestry companies to continue their normal operations while safely allowing a degree of public access. Some of these recreational activities can have positive benefits for the forestry companies. Recreational hunting for wild deer, pigs and goats, along with the trapping of possums, helps the forest owners in controlling pest numbers.
The diversity of activities undertaken in the commercial estate can be seen in the permit data of companies such as Blakely Pacific Limited. The recreational activities permitted in its South Island forests include hunting, cycling, walking, horse trekking and vehicle club access. The 5700-hectare Whakarewarewa Forest, near Rotorua, is another important example of a commercial forest that has become a significant recreational resource for local and international visitors. The forest has a network of paths for walkers and joggers; mountain-bike and motorbike tracks; picnic areas and a visitor centre. The forest is managed by Kaingaroa Timberlands, and attracts an estimated 282 000 recreational visits per year. Naseby Forest in Central Otago has gained a national reputation for its mountain-bike tracks. The forest is owned by Ernslaw One Limited, which has supported the recreational development of the forest.
Further examples include the walking and mountain- bike tracks developed around Dunedin by City Forests Limited and the extensive recreational facilities in Woodhill Forest, west of Auckland. Woodhill Forest has grown into a popular recreational resource for the Auckland population, with walking, biking, horse riding and off-road opportunities, as well commercial recreational activities.
A number of New Zealand’s commercial forests have developed into significant tourist attractions in their own right. These forests were generally established by the New Zealand Forest Service (a former state- owned agency). The Forest Service created walkways and supporting facilities in key locations (particularly tourist areas). Most of these facilities have been maintained with the sale of these forests to private interests.