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Extent and distribution of native vegetation

Alpine vegetation

Areas of native vegetation can be divided by bioclimatic zone or by administrative district. In our region, people have removed much of the native vegetation from lowland and coastal zones. Some other zones are largely unaffected. In some districts a high percentage of native vegetation remains, in others natural areas are scarce.

On this page: Bioclimatic zones, District council areas

Bioclimatic zones

Bioclimatic zones are areas of similar climate and similar plants and animals. Zones vary with altitude, latitude and distance inland (for example, there are alpine, sub-alpine, montane, lowland and coastal zones).

Once, each zone (except alpine), was almost totally covered in native vegetation.

The graph shows the amount of native vegetation (including wetlands) remaining in each bioclimatic zone. The percentages show the proportion of native vegetation now, compared with the estimated 1840 amount.

In the lowland and coastal zones, the climate and landforms are well suited to farming and residential development. People have made many changes in these two zones, and cleared much of the native vegetation.

In contrast, more rugged, high altitude areas remain largely covered in native vegetation.

Lava flows and ash falls have cleared the vegetation in some sub-alpine areas (on the slopes of Mounts Ruapehu, Ngauruhoe and Tongariro).

Native vegetation remaining in different zones


District council areas

The Thames-Coromandel, Waitomo and Taupo districts make up less than half of the region’s total land area. But between them, they contain 70 per cent of its remaining native vegetation.

The graph below shows the change in the amount of native forest, scrub and tussock within each district since 1840.
Changes in area of native vegetation by district

View our maps of the extent of native forest, scrub and tussock in 1840 and today.

Almost 60 per cent of the Thames-Coromandel district is covered in native vegetation. Much of it is recovering from past clearances and logging. Taupo, Waitomo, Otorohanga and Hauraki districts still have over 20 per cent of their original vegetation. In Hamilton, Waipa and Waikato districts less than 10 per cent remains.

Check out our page on threats to native plants and animals.

Check out our indicators on the extent of native vegetation and the extent of wetlands in the Waikato region.



  • Native vegetation data from Leathwick, J. Clarkson, B. and Whaley, P. 1995: Vegetation of the Waikato Region: Current and Historic Perspectives. Landcare Research Contract Report LC9596/022. Landcare Research, Hamilton.