Location & Investment: The keys to success for one of Rotorua's largest employers

One of our city’s largest employers, Red Stag Timber employs 400 full-time staff, and another 35 staff at sister company Red Stag TimberLab.

The company mills, kiln-dries, planes, treats and remanufactures more than 630,000m³ of Radiata pine and Douglas fir lumber per annum. The products are sold in New Zealand and exported to Australia, Pacific Islands, Asia, Africa, Europe and North America, resulting in an annual turnover of over NZ$300 million.

Red Stag was established in 2003 to operate the Waipa Mill which was originally founded by the government in 1939 and subsequently privatised in 1996.

Citing several key factors to Red Stag’s success and longevity, general manager Tim Rigter starts with its very knowledgeable and motivated workforce.

“Some of us still remember the receivership, which was a very motivating experience. The site has been operating since 1939 and a tremendous amount of knowledge has been built up on the site by the team here.

“The location is ideal, being close to Rotorua to attract and retain staff, while also being near two large world-class forests. 

“We have all our operations on one site which makes for easier communication to the staff on-site, and good logistics. We are a large site, 75 hectares, and so had room to expand. 

“We had owners willing to invest in new technology to get us to become a world-class operation. It is well known to many saw-millers around the world due to this. We have scale: we now produce three times the volume of 20 years ago with 50% more staff.

“We also generate all our energy requirements for heat and power from our co-generation plant where our fuel source is renewable sawdust, shavings and bark. We are a net exporter of power.”

Besides its revenue and providing a large employment base for Rotorua, Red Stag contributes to the community by continuously supporting many activities, events and projects. It’s not uncommon to see Red Stag as a sponsor with naming rights, including the Red Stag Rotorua Marathon, New Zealand’s most iconic marathon.

The company was also recognised by the industry, earning 2023 Timber Supplier of the Year at the Hardware Awards, where a major customer category, Merchants (e.g., Placemakers, ITM and Mitre 10), selected Red Stag to win this award over all other timber suppliers.

While the last 12 months have provided some challenges, such as a slower residential market and less demand for products, the company is staying true to its long-term commitment to further develop its product range and market base.

“Red Stag Timber is currently expanding its sawmill capacity by 10% by installing a new stacker, Trimline and another 90 bins. 

“We are also halfway through doubling our boron treatment capacity by building a second plant. These projects are valued at $60 million. We are also spending another $25 million on improvements around the site including our sewerage pond system, stormwater controls, safety projects and a new turbine that will improve our conversion of renewable fuels into energy. We are approximately a third of the way through these projects and it will take another 12-18 months to complete.”

Tim says he’s “very optimistic” about Red Stag’s future in Rotorua.

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