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Indigenous vegetation

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no significant change    NO SIGNIFICANT CHANGE


There is very little change in the extent of indigenous vegetation within the Waikato region each year.

This indicator is the percentage of land covered in indigenous forest, scrub and tussock in the Waikato region.

Why is this indicator important?

The native plants and trees of New Zealand are unique, having evolved in isolation for millions of years and provide a valuable place for our native animals to live in. Small sections of indigenous vegetation such as forest fragments can provide a ‘corridor’ between larger areas, providing links for native birdlife to move between areas.

Identifying and monitoring our areas of indigenous vegetation enables councils, individuals and environmental groups to work together to manage and preserve these areas for future generations.

Percentage of land covered in indigenous vegetation

Year Indigenous forest Indigenous scrub/ shrubland Indigenous tussock grassland Total
1840 52 21 19 92
1996 20 7 0 27
2012 20 7 0 27


What is this indicator telling us? 

  • Before European settlement, the vegetation cover in the Waikato region was mostly indigenous (native) forest, but also indigenous scrub and shrubland, tussock grassland, sedgelands, fernland and flaxlands.
  • Today just over a quarter of the region’s land remains in indigenous vegetation, most of it forest. The areas that have lost the most indigenous vegetation tend to be coastal and fertile lowland areas, around Hamilton City and in the Waipa, Waikato, South Waikato and Matamata-Piako districts.
  • Between 1996 and 2012 there was a net decrease of just over 1000 hectares of terrestrial indigenous vegetation in the Waikato region, mostly of scrub and shrubland. Some districts, including Otorohanga and South Waikato, gained areas of indigenous scrub and shrubland over the same time period.
  • By international comparison, New Zealand has a large proportion (33.4%) of its land area legally protected for conservation purposes. According to Ministry for the Environment (MfE) international statistics, New Zealand had the highest proportion of land area protected for conservation purposes out of all 30 OECD countries.

Check out related information on our website and other organisations’ websites listed on our Waikato Progress Indicators’ Useful Links page.

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Waikato Regional Council monitors changes in the amount of indigenous vegetation on land in the region using data from satellite photographs (Land Cover Database). A Regional Indigenous Vegetation Inventory provides an estimate of historic vegetation (1840).

During 2014, Waikato Regional Council completed a similar regional indicator: Indigenous coverage of protected areas. This measures indigenous (native) vegetation coverage in the Waikato region's protected areas. These areas include land legally protected by the Department of Conservation, QEII Trust, Ngā Whenua Rāhui and District Council Reserves. The protection of the region's threatened National Priority 1 Environments is also analysed.

Update details: Data only available for 1840, 1996 and 2012 at this stage.

Customised data request requirements: Nil


Territorial Authority (TA) disaggregation: Yes (1996 and 2012 data)

Other regions: Yes

New Zealand: Yes

Other countries/ Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD):  Secondary statistics from MfE International Comparison.