Successional pathways in native forest, planted 15–33 years ago on reconstructed surfaces to restore aesthetic values destroyed by hydro-electric dam construction at Aratiatia, central North Island, New Zealand, were compared with those on similar surfaces left unplanted. Only native species were planted. Classification identified three canopy communities and several ground layer communities with significant inter-stratum relationships: Pittosporum tenuifolium-Sophora tetraptera short forest with ground layers dominated by litter; P. tenuifolium-Kunzea ericoides short forest over adventive grasses on planted sites; and adventive Cytisus scoparius shrubland over grasses on unplanted sites. Planted communities mirror young secondary forests on intact substrates in the district, but have lower density and similar or higher basal area than such forests elsewhere. Established seedlings of seven planted canopy trees, mostly early successional bird-dispersed species, are reasonably widespread in floristically rich Pittosporum-Sophora forest. Seedlings of only two species are widespread in floristically poor Pittosporum-Kunzea forest, and none on unplanted sites. This first large-scale attempt at ecological restoration in New Zealand, by mass planting of new surfaces with early successional native woody species, has created aesthetically-pleasing stands of indigenous forest on sites which would otherwise remain in relatively stable adventive shrubland communities for the foreseeable future. Only continued monitoring will show whether further management is necessary and whether natural processes are operating at a level sufficient to ensure that artificially initiated successions will continue along more or less natural pathways.