Story: Economy

Page 3. Other primary production

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Forestry

Although almost a quarter of New Zealand’s 26.8 million hectares of land area is in native forests, milling of this has almost ceased. But 1.8 million hectares are planted in exotic trees, mainly radiata pine, and as a result of government sales of its estate in the late 1980s, over 90% of these forests are in private hands. Following a planting boom in the 1970s and early 1980s many trees are ready for processing. About an eleventh of all exports are wood products, including timber, pulp, board, paper and newsprint.

Fisheries

Since the establishment in 1977 of an exclusive economic zone around New Zealand (one of the largest such zones in the world), commercial fishing has developed into a major export industry. The fisheries are managed by a world-leading quota management system which sets limits on fish catches, and allows the trading of quota. There are over 1,500 vessels at work, and in addition to fish species such as hoki, orange roughy, tuna and snapper, there are significant exports of squid, lobster and farmed mussels. Fish and fish products amount to about 4% of total exports.

Energy

Energy contributes about 3% of gross domestic product (GDP) and New Zealand is self-sufficient in all forms of energy except oil. About 70% of New Zealand’s primary energy is domestically produced, the rest being imported oil. In December 2002 the most important energy sources were indigenous and imported oil (33% of energy content), gas (30%), hydroelectricity (11%), geothermal (11%), coal (8%) and other renewables (7%). Considering just sources of electricity, three fifths came from hydroelectric power stations, a quarter from gas, and small amounts from underground geothermal reserves (7%) and coal (4%).

The locally produced oil was dominated by the Māui field off the coast of Taranaki, which was also responsible for two-thirds of the gas production, with most of the remainder coming from onshore Taranaki, although there are prospects in other parts of New Zealand. Efforts have been made to improve energy efficiency and to develop renewable sources of energy such as wind and solar power.

Coal

Total in-ground coal resources are though to be about 15 billion tonnes, of which 8.6 billion are judged to be economically recoverable. Production in 2002 was about 4 million tonnes a year (about a half is exported), so New Zealand has very substantial reserves for the future.

Minerals

There are two economically significant metals mined in New Zealand:

  • Gold (and some silver) is produced commercially at Macraes Flat in east Otago and at Martha Mine at Waihī in the Coromandel, while alluvial gold mining takes place predominantly on the West Coast and in Otago.
  • Iron, which is found on the black sands of North Island west coast beaches. It is mined at Waikato North Head for use in the Glenbrook steel mill, and at Tahora further south, for export.

Major non-metallic minerals include clay, limestone, salt and nephrite or bowenite, known locally as greenstone (pounamu in Māori).

How to cite this page:

Brian Easton, 'Economy - Other primary production', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/economy/page-3 (accessed 21 September 2017)

Story by Brian Easton, published 8 Feb 2005, updated 16 Sep 2016