Soil orders

  • Image, Soils.

    Soil is essential for agriculture and forestry production, and is critical to the natural environment. Soils regulate water quality and help with nutrient cycling and carbon storage. Understanding the distribution of soils is important for matching their capability to their use. It helps us prevent soils from becoming depleted of important nutrients, eroded, or compacted.

    We classified Soil orders as supporting information.

    Key findings

    Of New Zealand’s 15 soil orders, 12 are generally suitable for supporting livestock and cropping activities.

    Definition and methodology

    The map of soil orders is based on the Fundamental Soil Layers (FSL) of the New Zealand Soil Classification (NZSC). At its highest level, the NZSC starts with 15 soil orders. These are divided into 73 major soil groups and 272 subgroups, with further subdivisions into soil forms.

    The NZSC was developed from regional soil databases and was validated against the National Soils Database (NSD) and other relevant data sources. The data was then linked to the soil polygons in the New Zealand Land Resource Inventory (NZLRI) and mapped. The NSD is a national point database of soil chemical, mineralogical, and physical characteristics for more than 1,500 soil profiles. The NZLRI is a national polygon database of physical land resource information that includes soils.

    The 15 soil orders of the New Zealand Soil Classification comprise:

    • young soils (raw, recent, anthropic)
    • mature soils (semiarid, pallic, brown, podzols, gley, organic, melanic, pumice, allophanic)
    • old soils (ultic, granular, oxidic).

    Key attributes such as drainage and structure, as well as the ability to provide key processes and services, vary according to soil type.

    Data quality

    We classified Soil orders as supporting information.


    Image, Indirect relevance.  This supporting information is a indirect measure of the ‘Land and soil condition’ topic.


    accuracy-high The accuracy of the data source is of high quality.

    See Data quality information for more detail.


    Published 21 October 2015

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