Located in the heart of New Zealand’s forestry and wood processing industry, Rotorua has, for decades, been at the epicentre of the country’s third-largest export earner
Across the fields of forestry, logging, and wood product manufacturing, this industry contributed $246m in GDP to the Rotorua district in 2019, which represented 7% of the region’s total GDP.
In recognition of the role the forestry industry plays in our economy, Te Uru Rākau – Forestry NZ has located one of its two headquarters here in Rotorua.
Besides being centrally located in the North Island, an extensive transportation infrastructure and robust support services have given Rotorua a sustainable competitive advantage. The strong ties maintains through working partnerships with Scion, Red Stag Timber, and New Zealand Institute of Skills and Technology subsidiary Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology (Toi Ohomai) have helped to strengthen the city’s establishment as an industry leader.
Centre of excellence
Destination Rotorua is working with Rotorua Lakes Council and industry stakeholders to position Rotorua as the centre of excellence in forestry and wood processing.
Rotorua Lakes Council endorses this approach through its own projects, such as the Rotorua CBD Revitalisation Strategy – Urban Design Framework, which was the first wood implementation development project.
For nearly 70 years, Crown research institute Scion has provided science and technology that underpins the highly productive forestry industry. Scion had an annual revenue in 2019 of approximately $56m.
Scion is at the forefront of forestry research and development, from a world-first radiata pine genome draft, to a new 3D printer filament that contains a Scion-made wood and bioplastic compound. This Rotorua-based organisation is leading New Zealand to a future of low-emissions in a biobased and biodiverse circular economy.
Also prominent in the industry is Red Stag Timber, an independent, privately owned timber company based in Rotorua. Established in 2003 to operate the Waipā Mill originally founded by the government in 1939, the Red Stag operation consists of a USNR Tandem-Quadsaw sawmill line, with associated timber processing operations for kiln drying, planing, treating and remanufacturing. They currently produce more than 600,000m³ of radiata pine and Douglas-fir lumber per annum, resulting in an annual turnover of over NZ $220 million. Red Stag is one of Rotorua’s largest employers with approximately 300 staff.
The country’s renowned forestry and timber training centre
Harvesting and production are not the only forestry-related activities in Rotorua. The most extensive range of forestry and timber processing training in the country takes place here too.
At Toi Ohomai’s Mokoia Campus, students are taught using state-of-the-art mechanised harvesting simulators and a computer suite featuring specialist software and technology relating to forest mapping, forest operations and timber applications.
The institute’s Waipā Campus, just down the road from Red Stag Timber, is the only dedicated training facility in the country to operate a working sawmill and wood manufacturing plant. Students also learn in the timber testing laboratory and gasification plant operated onsite.
Rotorua’s Wood First initiative recognises the economic, environmental, cultural and social significance of wood within the community. This initiative is about looking at wood as the first material of choice for construction, interior design and living developments within Rotorua, with a long-term goal of taking the Wood First concept to a wider national and international audience.
A growing wood harvest and log supply offers attractive volume-to-value investment opportunities to develop new world-class wood processing operations. Building on this success is a key priority for New Zealand’s government, with major long-term initiatives in place to encourage industry growth and support the country’s transition to a zero-carbon economy. Destination Rotorua works closely with government bodies such as New Zealand Trade and Enterprise (NZTE) and Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) to maximise the opportunities here.