The History of Nelson Forests

12 Mar 20


Nelson Forests story began almost 90 years ago with the first planting in Golden Downs Forest in 1927. Once Golden Downs was underway the next step, in the early 1930s, was to establish a nursery at Motupiko. During the following ten years the workforce grew to more than 200 men living and working in the forest.

World War II meant labour was scarce and by 1944 there were just two workers on the payroll. Nonetheless the 1940s became a decade of change in the forest with the introduction of the first mechanical dozer and the first women employed in the nursery. 

In 1952, a sawmiller from Hope purchased the first Radiata Pine logs from Golden Downs Forest. The logs were extracted by horses over an old four-foot track that had been widened for the job. 

Coronation Forest was established in the early 1950s in a part of Golden Downs Forest close to State Highway 6. This inspirational project has provided an opportunity for Nelson students to gain an understanding of the forestry process and their environment. 

The first plantings were carried out in June 1954 by more than 500 school students from the region. Those plantings were harvested in 1985 and have been replanted through the annual programme. Over the years thousands of people have participated and continue to participate in this innovative programme.

Major change came to forestry in 1987. The NZ Government separated conservation from plantation forest and NZ Timberlands was established to manage the commercial side of the business. Change in the Tasman forests continued throughout the next 20 years. Firstly with a Fletcher Challenge acquisition, then with a US company joint venture, and then followed by a further joint venture purchase by Weyerhaeuser NZ Inc in 1997. 

In 1996, the international environmental standard certification accreditation, ISO 14001, was attained under Fletcher Challenge Forests’ ownership. This was the first official certification of any New Zealand Forestry company. 

In late 2007, Global Forest Partners (GFP) formed Nelson Forests Limited (NFL). NFL now owns approximately 80,000 hectares of trees as well as the Kaituna Sawmill. 

In 2010 NFL achieved environmental certification. Today, almost 90 years since the first plantings in Golden Downs Forest, NFL is proud to be a major supplier of high quality, environmentally certified wood to both New Zealand and export markets. 

OneFortyOne acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and their deep connections to land, water, and community. We pay our respect to Elders past and present and extend that respect to all First Nations people today.

In Aotearoa New Zealand, Māori communities have a strong spiritual connection between people and the land – the wellbeing of one sustains the wellbeing of the other. We strive to build meaningful relationships with iwi as tangata whenua (people of the land/region), to be responsible intergenerational kaitiaki (stewards/guardians) of the land where our forests grow.