Rotorua District Council is the first local authority in New Zealand to adopt a Wood First Policy, an initiative aimed at looking at wood as the first material of choice for construction, interior design and living developments within Rotorua.
The council is endorsing this philosophy through its own projects, including the Rotorua CBD Revitalisation Strategy – Urban Design Framework which is the first wood implementation development and will include seating within the CBD area.
The policy acknowledges the importance of the forestry and wood processing industries to district, regional and national economies and complements a proposal by the New Zealand Wood Council encouraging central government to adopt a similar policy at a national level.
A report prepared for the council by business consultant Bryce Heard says Rotorua sits at the heart of the country’s forestry industry.
Almost half of New Zealand’s wood total is harvested from central North Island forests within a hundred kilometres of Rotorua.
Forestry and wood processing accounts for about 15 per cent of Rotorua’s GDP, with about 11 million cubic metres of logs harvested each year from around Rotorua, including four million in raw log form, mostly to China. The remaining seven million cubic metres of timber is processed into higher value products.
The report indicates that the logs currently exported represent an opportunity for greater economic growth if more wood is processed into local products to compete in national and international markets.
Mayor Steve Chadwick says a Wood First policy supports the council’s and community’s recently-adopted Rotorua 2030 vision and goals.
“It’s all about our future economic growth and, given our location surrounded by forest, it’s also about starting to tell the real story of Rotorua.
“This is outside-the-box thinking, and it’s very exciting that we’ll be the first in New Zealand to adopt a Wood First policy.”
Deputy Mayor Dave Donaldson, the council’s portfolio leader for sustainable economic growth, says the Wood First policy provides a real opportunity for wider collaboration across the Bay of Plenty region.
“We can clearly show the way by this policy.”
District councillor Tania Tapsell describes the decision as “a very exciting initiative”.
“It completely makes sense, not only for our regional economy but nationally as well.”
Councillor Mark Gould says the policy will have a huge impact on Rotorua in the future.