Forest covered about 80% of New Zealand before humans arrived. The semi-arid areas of the Mackenzie Country and Central Otago were the only large tracts not covered in forest. By 1840, Māori burning had reduced the forest cover to about 50%. In the North Island, fern and shrubs replaced the burnt forest. In the South Island, most of the cover east of the main divide was a mixture of shrubs and tall tussock grasslands.
Te whakamahi i tēnei tūemi
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Source: Bateman New Zealand historical atlas: ko papatuanuku e takoto nei. Auckland: David Bateman, 1997, plates 8, 12