From earliest colonization, New Zealand’s forests have been altered by timber merchants, land-hunting settlers, acculturation societies, and plantation enthusiasts. Many stages in remaking the forests involved the state. From 1920 forward, the State Forest Service established pine plantations; these extensive tracts of introduced species inspired private corporations that planted further acreage. A salubrious climate allowed radiata pine in particular to mature in thirty rather than sixty years. Consequently, by the early 1950s, public and private forestry industries, managing immense plantations, emerged as substantial employers and town builders in the central North Island. A Labour Party government in the late 1980s resolved to privatize the state plantation forests for fiscal reasons and to end the conflict of interest that existed with locating conservation and commercialization in a single Department of Forests. The decision to sell forests precipitated impassioned debates about national identity, recreation, aesthetics, the organization of industry, the paternalism of state forestry towns, and the relations of Māori with the state.
by John Weaver