Wood First policy in Rotorua leads the way

The Wood First policy of Rotorua has been held up as a viable nationwide post-COVID-19 recovery strategy that would create thousands of jobs, and possibly reduce New Zealand’s reliance on international exports.

Recognising the economic, environmental, cultural and social significance of wood within the community, Rotorua Lakes Council was the first Council to adopt a Wood First policy in 2015. This was an initiative to make wood the first material of choice for construction, interior design and living developments within Rotorua.

Now, as New Zealand focuses on recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, the goal to take the Wood First policy wider than our community appears to be catching on. A group of business chambers and forestry leaders across the country are now calling on the government to adopt a national 'wood-first' policy.

The forestry and wood processing industry is one of the key industries in Rotorua. It dates back to 1899 when the government planted exotic forests at the southern edge of town to address growing timber shortages as slow-growing native forests were exhausted. Today, the industry represents 7% of the region’s total GDP.

Deloitte research predicted a 25% increase in the use of wood in construction projects would create up to 3,000 jobs in the wood processing and forestry industry nationwide, as well as the transport sector, ports, and support jobs.

Rotorua Economic Development Chief Executive, Michelle Templer said, "The forestry and wood processing sector is at the core of Rotorua’s recovery planning with the recent establishment of the Whakahouhia te Whare Ōhanga (Build Back Better) Sector Group. The group is exploring local strategies relating to supply chain and talent management, which will ensure that Rotorua is well-placed to lead the way and benefit economically from a national wood procurement policy."

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