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If humans were to colonise Norfolk Island at all, some deforestation – cutting down the iconic pines – was inevitable. The indigenous forests included very few plants with edible products. But after more than two centuries of occupation, there are now many hillsides covered in low-value weedy shrubs – and the Island imports plantation timber from New Zealand for its building construction.

The benefits of forests become the justification for afforestation:

  1. The unique Norfolk Island Pine and the suite of other distinctive species of plants (and their dependent fauna) are worthy of planting projects because of their inherent scientific and aesthetic values.
  2. Deep-rooted shrubs and trees transmit nutrients from lower in the soil profile to the surface.
  3. The root systems of trees and shrubs hold the soil in place and retain rainfall, releasing it slowly to the groundwater and the streams. Like a giant sponge, a forested hillside will hold water back during heavy rain and release it slowly during dry periods. In this respect the weedy shrubs are just as useful as the indigenous rainforest and should not be destroyed unless an alternative form of worthwhile vegetation will be established in their place.

Although the Norfolk Island Pine is knotty and prone to attack from borers unless treated, there is a treatment plant on the island and the material is suitable for house framing. In any case, there are many other species, both indigenous and introduced, suitable for construction and cabinet work, that could replace weedy shrubs.

The above thoughts suggest that there should be a concerted program to reclaim land covered in woody shrubs with productive timber species, with some priority given to the indigenous Maple, Ironwood, Yellowood, Isaacwood and other multi-use species.

Given the long period before timber trees can be harvested, planting of these species is primarily a program for the public authorities who are not required to demonstrate a commercial return. However, private landowners willing to commit some of their land to forestry or agroforestry (forestry on farms) are encouraged to do so.