Spreading shrub or small tree 2–10m tall, monoecious; usually multistemmed. Bark coarse and scaly, exfoliating in thin irregular strips or plates, reddish brown. Branches many, spreading or ascending, often twisted, forming a conical young tree but bushy, often with a rounded crown when mature.
Forming dense sprays, flattened, ca. 4mm wide. Leaves arranged in opposite pairs at right angles to those above or below with the facial (central) and laterial pairs almost equal in size, 2–5 x 1–2mm, olive-green, stomatal band glaucous white.
Male pollen-cones terminal, solitary, 5–8 x 2–2.5mm, cylindrical, yellowish green, light brown when mature. Female seed-cones terminal, borne on branchlets with leaves of similar shape and size; bract-scales, the upper pair 8–9 x 3–4mm, the lower, smaller pair 4–6 x 2mm; seeds 1–-2, ovoid–oblong, flattish, apex acute or biid, light brown, with two opposite, very unequal, membranous wings.
Libocedrus yateensis is very similar to L. austrocaledonica and differes in some minor details in that the apex of the facial leaves which are pointed and reaches the next facial leaf (in L. austrocaledonica the apex is blunt and it only reaches halfway). The latter could represent a higher altitude form of L. yateensis (Farjon, 2005)