Whakarewarewa Forest and Scion

Whakarewarewa Forest and Scion

Today, Whakarewarewa Forest in Rotorua is partly a forest fun park, The Redwoods. There are fantastic walks through big mature exotics, including the Redwood Memorial Grove, a treetops walk, and mountain biking, as well as Scion research institute.

But that’s not how it started out. Much of the ancient native forest in NZ had been cut down by the late 1800s. This raised the question of what trees to plant to maintain the lumber industry.

Plant scientists got together with the goal of making dreams for cheap wood come true. From around early 1900, 170 exotic species were planted as a test in Whakarewarewa Forest, many of them along the edge of Longmile Road and Tarawera Road.

This included such magnificent species as sequoias and redwoods. As it turned out, the best performing exotic in NZ was the rather insignificant white pine and nowadays, for better or worse, these dominate the NZ forestry industry.

The New Zealand Forest Research Institute was established to support the development of the forestry industry. In the 1950s, a particularly unattractive facility was built right next to Whakarewarewa Forest, at the end of Longmile Road.

More recently, the Institute was rebranded as Scion (meaning a twig suitable for grafting) and a stunning new building was developed in front of the earlier complex. Even better, there is a great cafe, plus panels and photo galleries describing the history of the industry, and it’s only a short walk from the Redwoods.

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