Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
thesis_access.pdf (8.07 MB)

Creating a public forest consciousness: Forestry and forest conservation in New Zealand, 1916-1935

Download (8.07 MB)
Version 2 2023-03-10, 00:28
Version 1 2022-05-17, 21:13
posted on 2022-05-17, 21:13 authored by Lars Sveding

By the middle of the 1910s, conservationists and scientific foresters in New Zealand feared that the Dominion faced a timber famine – a shortage of wood – as a result of the largescale deforestation that followed the British colonisation of New Zealand. To avoid a timber famine, forestry advocates and professional foresters sought to educate the public on the dangers of deforestation and the need for scientific forest management, hoping to create a public forest consciousness. This constituted a central aim of the work of the New Zealand Forestry League (NZFL), a voluntary conservation organisation formed in 1916, and later the New Zealand State Forest Service (SFS), established in 1919. By drawing upon a large body of primary sources, including official and unofficial material as well as published and unpublished material, this thesis examines the efforts of the NZFL and the SFS to create a public forest consciousness in the period of 1916-1935.

As this thesis shows, the NZFL and the SFS aimed to acquire public support for scientific forestry, have the public participate in the prevention of a timber famine either by planting trees or reducing waste, and also promote a public appreciation and realisation of the aesthetic and utilitarian value of forests and native birdlife. To create a public forest consciousness, the NZFL and the SFS employed a range of methods and tools. These included: holding lectures, promoting movies, putting up posters, distributing pamphlets and leaflets, publishing a popular magazine, supplying articles to journals and newspapers, selling and offering trees and seeds, as well as participating in exhibitions. The NZFL and the SFS also undertook propaganda schemes aimed at particular groups of the public such as, farmers, the timber industry, and school children, to encourage private forestry, reduce waste, and instil both a love for forests and political support for forestry in the future generation. Lastly, the two organisations collaborated with the Native Bird Protection Society (Royal Forest & Bird Protection Society) in its work to safeguard indigenous avifauna. Making a public forest consciousness encompassed all aspects of forestry and forest conservation, from promoting the planting of exotic quick-growing timber trees to protecting native bird life to ensure the ecological well-being of indigenous forests.

This thesis, by examining the efforts of the NZFL and the SFS to create a public forest consciousness, adds to the environmental history of New Zealand. It expands institutional histories, by highlighting hitherto un-researched dimensions of public engagement by voluntary conservation organisations and the SFS. Furthermore, and perhaps most significantly, it expands the scholarship of environmental history in general by showcasing the value and importance forestry advocates and scientific foresters placed on public support and public participation in forest conservation.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline


Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

ANZSRC Socio-Economic Outcome code

130705 Understanding New Zealand’s past

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code

1 Pure basic research

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Doctoral Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of History, Philosophy, Political Science and International Relations


McAloon, Jim; Beattie, James