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NZ Plants

1950 to 1999


  • William Douglas Cook, frustrated at trying to grow rhododendrons at Eastwoodhill in Poverty Bay, purchases 60 ha of cut over bushland on the slopes of Mt Taranaki. A year later Cook donates this land to start the Pukeiti Rhododendron Trust with 25 Founder Members and the gardens open. In the next eight years the gardens exceed 300 ha.
  • The New Zealand Forest Service is put in charge of stabilisation and afforestation of coastal sand dunes. Refined techniques for planting and harvesting result in over 36,000 ha of timber productive sand forest in the North Island by 1984.


  • The University of Otago acquires the fish hatchery and marine station at Portobello (estab. 1904) and opens the Portobello Marine Laboratory for teaching and research purposes. In subsequent years an aquarium and public education programmes are developed.
  • The limited protection enjoyed by possums is removed and a bounty system is introduced.
  • Thane Riney, an American deer ecologist, joins Internal Affairs. He concludes that although selective browsing (especially five finger, fuchsia, wineberry, broad leaf, māhoe, lancewood, beech and many grasses) modifies vegetation composition, an equilibrium is eventually reached between the deer population and the vegetation.


  • Geoff Baylis, a graduate of Auckland University College Botany Department, is appointed first professor of Botany at Otago University College.
  • New Zealand population reaches 2,000,000 people.
  • New Zealand Forest Products Ltd. begins production of kraft paper and pulp at Kinleith.
  • Fiordland National Park, the largest of New Zealand's national parks, occupying the southeast corner of the South Island is created. This consists of 1.2 million hectares of coastal fiords, mountain peaks and glaciers in one of the wettest climates in the world (14,108 mm recorded in a 12 month period).
  • Waipoua State Forest south of the Hokianga Harbour becomes a Forest Sanctuary. With 9,105 ha, it is the largest remaining tract of unlogged forest in Northland and contains the two largest living kauri in New Zealand.
  • The National Parks Act is passed establishing a single body, the National Parks Authority, for administration of national parks and reserves. When this comes into effect in the following year, there are 7 national parks and more than 1,300 reserves.


  • Lucy Moore is assigned to assist H.H. Allan on the New Zealand Flora project.
  • Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park is created consisting of 70,728 hectares. Lying on the eastern side of the Southern Alps this includes the highest mountains and longest glacier in New Zealand plus varied alpine habitats.
  • Te Urewera National Park is established with 212, 673 hectares of forest-covered ranges in the mid-eastern North Island. This is New Zealand's fourth largest national park containing part of the single largest tract of native forest remaining in the North Island.
  • New Zealand's most southerly subantarctic island, Campbell Island, becomes a Reserve for Preservation of Fauna and Flora. It has around 128 species of vascular plants which include several endemic herbs and grasses.
  • Mayor Island (Tuhua), a 7,200 ha forested volcanic island in the western part of Bay of Plenty becomes a wildlife refuge administered by the Mayor Island Board of Trustees.
  • Mokoia Island in Lake Rotorua, the largest (135 ha) island in a lake in New Zealand, is given Wildlife Refuge status. It consists mostly of pasture and scrub and contains many introduced pests.
  • First commercial exports of the Chinese gooseberry which becomes known as ‘kiwifruit' in 1959.


  • Norman Elder is employed by the New Zealand Forest Service. In the following years Elder produces landmark papers on the ecology of the Kaweka, Kaimanawa and Ruahine Ranges making a great contribution to the knowledge of North Island forested steeplands.
  • New Zealand's first forest park, Tararua Forest Park, is established. Located approx. 50 km northeast of Wellington, it contains 120,000 ha of rugged landscape from alpine tussock, moss-covered ‘goblin forest', beech-kāmahi and mixed podocarps, exotic production forest and a small hydro scheme. This forest park concept of allowing a multiple use approach is trialed for 11 years before being cast in legislation.


  • J.C. Fletcher opens the Tasman Pulp and Paper plant at Kāwerau.
  • A Handbook of the New Zealand Mosses by G. O. K. Sainsbury is published by the Royal Society of New Zealand.


  • The Noxious Animals Act of 1956 declares possums, red deer, goats, chamois, pigs and wallabies to be noxious animals.
  • The Forest Service assumes responsibility for the control of noxious animals including red deer which despite 40 years of culling remain in large numbers.
  • The Ecological Survey is started by the New Zealand Forest Service and continues for 10 years. This is concerned with mapping and describing indigenous forest types based on ecological characteristics.
  • Nelson Lakes National Park consisting of 101,752 ha is established. Located near the northern end of the South island it contains beech and podocarp forests plus alpine shrub, tussock and herbfields.


  • Nancy Adams, a botanist and botanical artist, joins the National Museum (now Te Papa, Museum of New Zealand) as an assistant curator of botany. Becoming curator of algae, she develops the seaweed collection.


  • Westland/Tai Poutini National Park is established, containing 117,607 ha with coastal habitats, wet lowland forest, alpine areas plus snowfields and glaciers.
  • Heritage Destroyed by John Salmon is published. This advocates the wise use of resources and points out the uncoordinated administration of conservation law.
  • Land area devoted to vineyards surpasses 11,500 ha.
  • Onions begin to be exported in large quantities; most are grown in Pukekohe and Canterbury. In future years they become a major export crop.
  • For the first time production of rough-sawn exotic timber exceeds that of indigenous timber.
  • Chamois and tahr numbers in alpine areas of the Southern Alps are estimated to be in excess of 100,000 which, compounded by red deer, hares and sheep, is resulting in worn tracks and severe grazing of native plants.


  • The University of New Zealand is dissolved and the university colleges at Auckland, Canterbury, Otago and Wellington assume independent university status.
  • The first volume of Harry H. Allan's Flora of New Zealand is published by the Government Printer. (Allan died in 1957 and the final editing of the book, including a full revision of the genus Hebe, is carried out by Lucy Moore).
  • The Antipodes, Bounty Island and the Snares join the Auckland and Campbell islands as Nature Reserves for the Preservation of Fauna and Flora. The five island groups have a total land area of 76,458 ha.


  • The Nature Conservation Council (NCC) is created. In future years it concerns itself with a policy of fact finding and an assessment of the need for research into particular aspects of nature conservation.


  • The New Zealand Journal of Botany commences publication.
  • Opening of University of Canterbury Edward Percival Field Station-Laboratory at Kaikōura on the South island.
  • Victoria University acquires the Glaxo fish oil factory 8 km south of the Kelburn Campus on Cook Strait and develops it into the Island Bay Marine Laboratory.
  • Rapid expansion of citrus planting on the North Island.
  • Massey University of Manawatū is formed, incorporating Massey Agricultural College, and within two years grows into a multi-faculty institution.
  • Possums have spread to 84% of New Zealand.
  • Shooting deer by helicopter is trialed in Otago. In future years, helicopter-based venison collecting proves to be effective at reducing deer numbers where populations are dense such as in Fiordland National Park.
  • The Forest and Bird Protection Society of New Zealand becomes the Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society of New Zealand.
  • 50,190,000 sheep in New Zealand.
  • Dobbie's New Zealand Ferns is rewritten and enlarged by Marguerite Crookes and becomes the most important book on New Zealand ferns for the next 26 years.


  • University of Waikato opens in Hamilton and includes a department of Biological Sciences.
  • Opening of the Leigh Marine Laboratory of the University of Auckland, 80 km north of Auckland.
  • Mount Aspiring National Park is established in the south west of the South Island; the third largest national park, with 355,543 hectares. Straddling dry east and wet west sides of the divide, it contains widely contrasting alpine, forest, and tussock habitats.
  • Trees and Shrubs of New Zealand by A.L. Poole and Nancy Adams is published. This is a complete coverage of native trees and shrubs with over 400 illustrations.


  • Whale Island (Motuhora) a 143 ha remnant of a volcanic cone 12 km north of Whakatane in the Bay of Plenty is bought from private ownership and declared a wildlife refuge. It is covered with pōhutukawa, māhoe, kānuka, bracken and grassland.


  • Stephens Island, 150 ha in size and at the western end of Cook Strait, becomes a wildlife sanctuary.


  • The tree-tomato (cf 1920's), popular during World War II, has its name changed to tamarillo to avoid confusion with the common garden tomato. Cultivation is from Kerikeri to the Bay of Plenty. By 1981, 2,166 tonnes are produced annually.
    William Douglas Cook dies; eight years later a trust is established for his Eastwoodhill Arboretum by act of parliament. The arboretum is recognized as having the most comprehensive collection of Northern Hemisphere woody plants south of the Equator.


  • The New Zealand Seashore by John Morton and Michael Miller is published. This is the first detailed, ecosystem based treatment of New Zealand marine life, including animals, algae and plants.


  • The Save Manapōuri Campaign is launched to resist moves to raise water levels in Lake Manapōuri and the resultant extensive flooding of surrounding land and islands. This successful campaign is the first national debate on environmental issues.
  • The Hauraki Gulf Maritime Park, created in 1967, becomes a reality. This is a collection of islands at the entrance of the Waitemata to beyond the entrance of the Whangarei Harbour.
  • The Kaimanawa Forest Park is established. This contains 77,348 ha of beech, scrub and tussock grassland in the Kaimanawa Mountains southeast of Lake Taupō.
  • Passing of the Deer Farming Regulations 1969 allows capture of feral deer for farming for venison and velvet and in the following years deer farming becomes widespread. The result is that the reduction in red deer numbers achieved during the previous venison-recovery era is maintained in some areas.


  • 51% of New Zealand's surface area is now grassland.
  • There are six million hectares of remaining indigenous forest (compared with 22 million ha in 1886).
  • The Australian banyan fig (Ficus rubiginosa) planted in parks, acquires its obligatory wasp pollinator by long-distance dispersal and begins to release seed and naturalize.
  • The Asian paper wasp, (Polistes chinensis), a feeder on insects and nectar, becomes established in the North Island.
  • Kiwifruit becomes a major export crop with more than 85% exported, all of the Hayward variety.


  • Flora of New Zealand Vol 2, Monocotyledons except grasses by Lucy B. Moore and Elizabeth Edgar is published by the Government Printer.


  • The Forest Service report , Utilisation of South Island Beech Forests, promotes the utilisation of extensive areas of indigenous lowland beeches and mixed forest in Westland, Nelson and Southland to be replaced eventually by radiata pine.
  • The Mosses of New Zealand by K.W.Allison and J.Child is published.
  • The Coromandel Forest Park is established on the Coromandel Peninsula. This contains 74, 961 ha of tawa with hīnau, rewarewa and tōwai, rimu and northern rātā, kānuka, mānuka, broadleaved shrub species.
  • Pirongia Forest Park is established near Te Awamutu in the King Country of the North Island. This contains 16,738 ha of kauri, taraire, southern beech forests.


  • The Dominion Museum in Wellington becomes known as the National Museum.
  • Rimutaka Forest Park is gazetted. Located approx. 30 km northeast of Wellington, its 22,000 ha encompasses much of the Rimutaka Range and contains beech forest and mixed podocarps at lower elevations.


  • Britain joins the European Economic Community, seriously affecting New Zealand exports of primary products.
  • Site development starts for the Auckland Regional Botanical Gardens in Manurewa, south of central Auckland
  • New Zealand Alpine Plants by Alan F. Mark and Nancy Adams is published by Reed, Wellington. This includes a large number of illustrations as well background information on alpine plants and their habitat.


  • New Zealand population reaches 3,000,000 people.
  • The University of Canterbury Harihari Field Station opens on the West Coast of the South Island focusing upon forestry and ecology.
  • Craigieburn Forest Park is established. This contains 44,171 ha of beech, tussock grassland, open riverbed and rock barrens located between the Lewis Pass and Arthur's Pass on the South Island.
  • The Kaweka Forest Park is established in western Hawkes Bay. This contains 67,147 ha of beech/podocarp, scrub and tussock grassland.
  • Lake Sumner Forest Park is established. This contains 107,222 ha of beech, tussock grassland, open riverbed and rock barrens between the Lewis Pass and Arthur's Pass.


  • New Zealand's first marine reserve is established at Goat Island 100 km north of Auckland on the east coast near the town of Leigh and officially opened two years later. The reserve extends 5 km along the coastline and consists of about 500 ha of seabed plus the 9.3 ha Goat Island which is a Scenic Reserve.
  • The Poor Knights Islands become a flora and fauna reserve. They contain mostly regenerating forest, scrub and herbaceous plants some of which are endemic including the Poor Knights lily, Xeronema callistemon, found elsewhere only on the Hen and Chicken Islands.
  • The Catlins Forest Park is established 50 km east of Invercargill. This contains 58,131 ha of podocarp/hardwood, cedar and rātā forest.
  • The Kaimai-Mamaku Forest Park is established in the Kaimai Ranges of eastern Waikato/western Bay of Plenty. This contains 37,141 ha of relict kauri, podocarp/hardwood forest, red and silver beech located
  • Eight years after the death of Douglas Cook, the Eastwoodhill Trust Act of 1975 establishes the Eastwoodhill National Arboretum. The arboretum is recognized as having the best southern hemisphere collection of northern hemisphere trees.
  • Rush to Destruction by Graham Searle is a forceful analysis of lowland forest questioning the harvesting of trees in Westland and Southland
  • The Native Forests Action Council (NFAC) is founded and for the next 12 years spearheads a successful campaign to end logging of indigenous trees in North Island state forests.
  • Liverworts of New Zealand by K.W.Allison and J.Child is published by the University of Otago Press.
  • Trees and Shrubs of New Zealand by Audrey Eagle is published. A conservationist and botanical artist, Eagle illustrates 228 species in colour representing all genera found in New Zealand. Revised, enlarged editions are published in 1982 and 1986.


  • Ruahine Forest Park is established. This contains 93,068 ha of kaikawaka, rimu and red beech, kamāhi and alpine grassland in the western Hawke's Bay.
  • Vegetation of Mount Cook National Park by Hugh D. Wilson is published by the National Park Authority as the first in a scientific review of national parks.


  • The Reserves Act of 1977 accords all five groups of subantarctic islands National Nature Reserve Status and comes into force the following year. These have 250 taxa of plants of which 35 are endemic.
  • Maruia Declaration, a petition signed by 10 % of the population, asks that all clear felling of native forests on public land be ended.
  • Queen Elizabeth II National Trust Act establishes a trust to encourage and promote protection and preservation of open spaces without jeopardizing rights of ownership. This heritage trust concept was the idea of farmers Celia and Gordon Stephenson of Putaruru who, two years later, are granted the first open space covenant prohibiting future owners from clearing their bush.
  • Tree top protests at Pureora Forest draw national attention to the logging of this pristine mixed podocarp forest in the central North Island. Logging ceases in 1982.
  • Mount Richmond Forest Park is established. This contains 163,000 ha of beech, kānuka and scrublands east of Nelson City on the South Island.
  • Vegetation of Mt. Aspiring National Park, New Zealand by Alan F. Mark is published by The National Parks Authority, Wellington.


  • Fertiliser subsidies are introduced to encourage the use of fertilizer and lime. (Subsidies are removed in 1984).
  • The Noxious Plants Act is enacted .
  • Aorangi Forest Park is established. It consists of 19,373 ha located 100 km east of Wellington . It covers a large part of the Aorangi Mountains and contains subalpine shrubland, beech forest and mixed podocarp forest.
  • Hanmer Forest Park is established. This contains 16,852 ha of exotic plantations at lower levels and mountain beech at higher levels located at the junction of north Canterbury and southern Marlborough.
  • Establishment of the Pureora Forest Park west of Lake Taupō in the Hauhungaroa and Rangitoto Ranges. It consists 78,000 ha of subalpine shrubland, mossfields to dense lowland podocarp forest with 40-60 m tall trees.
  • Oxford Book of New Zealand Plants by Lucy B. Moore and J.B.Irwin is published by Oxford University Press. This is an illustrated coverage of vegetative and reproductive features of many native plants including some algae and fungi..
  • Wild Plants of Mount Cook National Park, a field guide by Hough D. Wilson, is published by Field Guide Publications.
  • 100 Shrubs and Climbers of New Zealand and 100 Trees of New Zealand by Audrey Eagle are published by Collins as companion volumes.


  • Coast Biologicals opens an agar processing factory at Ōpōtiki in the Bay of Plenty using the seaweeds Pterocladia lucida and Gracilaria sp. mostly collected in the Wairarapa at the southern tip of the North Island.
  • The Raukumara Forest Park is established. This contains 115,100 ha of kāmahi, tawa, pukatea, hīnau, rewarewa, rimu, miro and beech forest in the eastern Bay of Plenty.


  • Cabbage trees (Cordyline australis), widespread throughout the country, begin to die in increasing numbers with those in Northland being the most affected. Because death takes place within 4-12 months this becomes known as ‘Sudden Decline'.
  • Avocado (Persea americana) becomes a significant crop cultivated mostly in the Bay of Plenty.
  • Sphagnum moss (Sphagnum cristatum), valued for its water-retaining properties in orchid culture, becomes a significant export crop that is harvested in western areas of the South Island.
  • The aggressive, fast growing Asian seaweed Undaria pinnatifida is found in the Auckland area. This rapidly spreads as far south as Stewart Island threatening to displace native species and foul marine farms.
  • The National Indigenous Vegetation Survey (NIVS) creates a digital data base to obtain and archive vegetation data largely on vascular plants. This is maintained by the Forest Research Institute in collaboration with the newly established Department of Conservation. In 1992 the NIVS is transferred to the newly created Landcare Research Crown Institute.
  • Sudden decline of yellow tree lupin (Lupinus arboreus) widely planted in sand forests. This is found to be due to a fungus (Colletotrichum gloeosporioides). The resulting nitrogen deficient soils support a reduced growth of trees.
  • The New Zealand Native Forest Restoration Trust is established to restore degraded or destroyed indigenous habitats and plant communities in New Zealand. Each reserve is covenanted for permanent protection through the Queen Elizabeth II National Trust and is supervised by an honorary ranger. The first purchase is a 146 ha cutover block adjacent to Waipoua Forest and this is named the McGregor Memorial Reserve.


  • Flora of New Zealand Vol III, Adventive monocotyledons except grasses by A. J. Healy and Elizabeth Edgar is published by the Government Printer.
  • Tiritiri Matangi Island, located 4 km off of the Whangaparaoa Peninsula 28 km north of Auckland, is made a Scientific Reserve within the Hauraki Gulf Maritime Park.
  • The Native Trees of New Zealand by John T Salmon is published. A zoologist, Salmon has been a botanical conservationist, photographer and author of several popular books on plants; this is his definitive work on native trees.


  • New Zealand's second marine reserve established around the Poor Knights Islands.
  • South Okarito and Waikukupa Forests on the west coast of the South Island, including the country's largest forested wetland are protected and added to Westland National Park.
  • The Biological Resources Centre is established and its Protected Natural Areas programme begins mapping the country into ecological regions and districts based upon vegetation, climate, geomorphology and soils. This is taken over by the Department of Conservation six years later.
  • The Botany of Auckland by Lucy M. Cranwell is published by Auckland Institute and Auckland War Memorial Museum. This incorporates much from the earlier Wall and Cranwell book published in 1936 and 1943.
  • New Zealand Medicinal Plants by S.G. Brooker, R.C. Cambie and R.C. Cooper is published by Heineman. This is a record of medicinal uses with notes on pharmacology where known. Further editions are published in 1987.


  • The Auckland Botanic Gardens is opened with the aim of displaying both native and introduced plants suitable for the Auckland area and providing facilities for plant conservation and community education.
  • Field Guide to Stewart Island Plants by Hugh D. Wilson is published by Field Guide Publications.


  • The Nature Conservation Council begins an inventory of threatened plants.


  • Tiritiri Matangi, consisting of 220 ha of mostly bare farmland, is the subject of a major reforestation project by volunteers which continues for ten years. It eventually becomes predator-free and has endangered fauna introduced.
  • Tasman Forestry establishes a pilot scale tissue culture lab to develop in vitro clonal propagation technology. Four years later a commercial scale facility opens using organogenesis and somatic embryogenesis technology.
  • To Save a Forest by Morton, Ogden and Hughes is published. This culminates a long struggle by conservationists to preserve the Whirinaki Forest.
  • The Whirinaki Forest Park is established. This consists of 60,900 ha of podocarp forest 100 km southeast of Rotorua.


  • Flora of New Zealand:Lichens by D.J.Galloway is published by the Government Printer.
  • Application of fertiliser to farm land peaks at more than 3 million tons.


  • Whanganui National Park is established on the west coast of the North Island along the banks of the Whanganui river (New Zealand's longest navigable river). This consists of 79,000 ha of lowland podocarp/hardwood forest through which it flows for much of its 300 km journey to the ocean.
  • The West Coast Forest Accord is signed by the minister of the environment, conservation groups and timber workers unions to establish reserves, allocation of native forests for timber production on a sustainable basis and for the founding of the Paparoa National Park. The Accord is subsequently weakened by the withdrawal of some groups that had signed it.


  • A 1:1,000,000 Vegetative Cover of New Zealand map is published by the National Water and Soil Conservation Authority. The total land area of 27 million ha is distributed as follows: 10.6 million ha in grassland; 6.3 million ha in forest; 5.17 million ha in grassland-scrub; 1.27 million ha in forest-scrub; 1.1 million ha in scrub; 0.73 million ha in grassland-forest; 0.37 million ha in alpine or sub-alpine herb fields, sand dune communities, wetlands and pākihi; 0.16 million ha in cropland.
  • The Department of Conservation (DoC) is created, incorporating parks and reserves to protect indigenous forests, inland waterways, fauna and flora and historic places, representing about 30% of the country. (The New Zealand Forest Service, the Department of Lands and Survey and the Wildlife Service are disestablished.)
  • With the creation of DOC the National Parks Authority, National Parks Boards, local and specialist advisory boards are disestablished, their functions assumed by the New Zealand Conservational Authority and regional conservation boards.
  • The Ministry of Forestry is created.
  • Ministry for the Environment is created to be the government's principal advisor on environmental issues including air and water quality, climate changes, sustainable industry and waste.
  • Paparoa National Park is established on the west coast of the South Island. This consists of 30, 360 hectares of sculpted coastal cliffs and forested limestone basin extending inland to the Paparoa Range.
  • The Rangitoto Island Scenic Reserve is established (formerly the Rangitoto Domain,1854), to be administered by Department of Conservation in association with the tangata whenua. It consists of 2,311 ha of highly porous lava supporting a ‘lava forest' formed by the coalescence of growing islands of vegetation. This unique, harsh environment supports over 40 species of moss and 200 species of flowering plants.
  • The 217 ha Mana Island, 2.5 km off the west coast 20 km north of Wellington area, is declared a scientific reserve administered by the Department of Conservation and a massive reforestation program is initiated .
  • Kapiti Island, established as a reserve in 1897, is now managed by the Department of Conservation. A programme of pest eradication begins.
  • Founding of the Hinewai Reserve on the south-east sector of Banks Peninsula. In the next 20 years this privately funded and managed reserve is enlarged to consist of more than 1,200 ha of mostly 2nd growth forest, scrub, pasture, fernland and tussock.
  • Dictionary of Māori Plant Names by James Beever is published by the Auckland Botanical Society. A second edition follows in 1991.


  • Flora of New Zealand Vol I: Naturalised ferns, gymnosperms and dicots by C.J.Webb, W.R.Sykes and P.J.Garnock-Jones is published by the Botany Division, DSIR.
  • The Native Forests Action Council becomes the Maruia Society to focus on a more sustainable development approach to conservation issues. It becomes involved in the development of the Resource Management Act and conservation issues in New Zealand and the Pacific.
  • The first Taranaki Rhododendron Festival is held in New Plymouth, organized by the Pukeiti Rhododendron Trust and a local tourism body. The Trust now has approx. 2,500 different rhododendrons plus many other native and exotic genera.
  • The Waitakere Parkland now consists of more than 17,000 ha and is administered by the Auckland Regional Council.
  • Manufacture and sale of the herbicide 2,4,5-T is banned.


  • The Ministry of Research, Science and Technology is established and the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology is created a year later. The Public Good Science Fund is administered by the Foundation. This is the government's major investment in strategic science.