Around 1000 AD, long before humans arrived in New Zealand, forest covered more than 80% of the land. The only areas without substantial forests were in the South Island – Central Otago and the Mackenzie Basin. After Māori arrived around 1250–1300 AD, they burnt off large areas, and European traders logged timber for export from the late 18th century. By 1840, when organised European settlement began, forests covered only 50% of the country.
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Source: Malcolm McKinnon, ed., Bateman New Zealand historical atlas. Auckland: Bateman, 1997, plate 12