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The Beginnings of Forestry in Rotorua

 Whakarewarewa Nursery and Forest

Te Arawa

At the very end of the 19th century, the people of Rotorua were looking for new ways to make the economy grow.  The timber from forestry was valuable but New Zealand was beginning to run out of it because so many native trees had been cut down for building and industry.  New Zealand’s native trees make some of the strongest and most beautiful timber in the world, but as we now know, these precious taonga take many lifetimes to grow and are very hard to replace so another way of growing trees and creating timber needed to be found.
An idea was hatched to try and grow exotic (non-native) trees in Rotorua because they grow much more quickly and can be cut down and the land re-planted in only a few years.  Seedlings from 170 different tree species were planted in a special nursery at Whakarewarewa so they could learn which types would grow well in Rotorua.
Some species grew very well in the area and others didn’t thrive at all.  Radiata pine especially liked the conditions and became the most important variety and was planted in large numbers to make up the Whakarewarewa Forest.
The Whakarewarewa Forest planting created many jobs and income for local Māori.  In fact, almost all the planting work done in those early years was done using native labour, with the project foreman and his assistant being the only Pakehā working there.
Many trees were also planted at Waiotapu by prison work teams in 1901 creating a vast forest.  Great progress was made but it was not always an easy road. There were a few setbacks such as the sudden change in temperature one night that killed 200,000 young plants in just one day.
The Californian Redwoods that grew in the nursery turned out to not be very good for growing in large numbers so today you will mostly only see them in the Redwood Memorial Grove or near Lake Rotokakahi where many local people and visitors enjoy walking, running and riding their bikes today.
The under-canopy of these trees has created a perfect home for native ferns, shrubs, flowers and fungi. Different types of spleenwort, pittosporums, coprosmas, native fuchsia and manuka all grow there making it a very special place to be.

Qualities: innovation, diligence

More to watch:

See the Redwoods Whakarewarewa forest today:

Mountain biking in Whakarewarewa Forest:

From Rotorua Library:

See a DVD on Whakarewarewa Forest:

Whakarewarewa: a community forest (Scion Forest Research Institute)


More to read:

From Rotorua Library:

The New Century in Rotorua (D. M. Stafford)

Rotorua forests: a history: a short account of the development of state forestry in the Rotorua region (Joan Boyd)


This entry is related to these other entries:

Railways and Rotorua



The New Century in Rotorua (D. M. Stafford)

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