Kawerau, a small town in the Bay of Plenty, was founded as recently as 1953, specifically to support the then-new Tasman pulp and paper mill. The mill was taking its wood from the huge surrounding Kaingaroa exotic pine forest which had been planted in the early 1900s following the destruction of old growth native forest.

Unlike older towns in NZ, Kawerau was carefully planned before construction with an impressive number of facilities and town centre. Unfortunately, it turned out that 1950s architecture and design does not age well, while reliance on forestry and milling is a bit risky.

More recently, the town has developed more facilities and options for visitors and it is the only place in the area to do a proper shop or have a meal. There are a couple of nice parks, including walks around the Tarawera River which runs through the town. It is also the gateway to the Tarawera Falls, for which you have to go to the visitor centre to get a pass ($10 per vehicle). This provides access to Tarawera Falls Road, a private forestry road. The falls are possibly the most interesting waterfall in the North Island and the walk there is one of the best in NZ.

From Lake Rotoiti, SH30 skirts two further lakes, Rotoehu and Rotomā, both with modest hamlets. From Lake Rotomā, it climbs up into the Rotomā Forest (mostly native) then continues on to Whakatane on the Bay of Plenty coast. As you exit the Rotomā Forest, take the turn off to Kawerau on SH34.

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