The sale, thought to cover about 250,000ha, would represent one of New Zealand’s biggest-ever forestry sales.

Rank, a private company owned by Graeme Hart, bought CHH earlier this year in a NZ$3.3bn deal and has now sent out a notice about the sale to potential buyers.

Mr Hart is retaining some of the land which CHH had already earmarked for sale, and some of this could be sold or leased to dairy farmers or property developers who are likely to pay more for it.

The move has started speculation about other CHH assets, including processing and distribution facilities. Other recent forestry sales include 107,000ha by the former Fletcher Challenge Forests and 165,000ha by the Central North Island Forest Partnership, both in 2004. Almost 100,000ha was sold by CHH last year.