Thursday, 25 May 2017

Industry in Rotorua : the early years

Industry providing jobs in Rotorua c.1880's-1930's 

Rotorua has long been the stronghold for saw milling.  One of the 1st mills was the Rotoiti Sawmill Co. which was established at the lake edge, the other belonged to the Steele Brothers leased in 1888 in the Maraeroa-Oturoa block and not long after this they set up a new timber yard which was sited on the corner of Eruera and Tutanekai Streets and took up the entire block back to Amohia Street. 

Don Stafford records in his 'Founding years of Rotorua',  that "Railway construction, probably more than anything else, gave impetus to the development of a timber industry for Rotorua" 

Joan Boyd records for us the history of Afforestation in NZ and principally here in Rotorua in her book 'Rotorua forests : a history' c.1980.  
By the late 1890's a nursery was set up in Rotorua at the foot of the hills adjacent to the Whakarewarewa thermal area 1. , following this afforestation began in 1901 at Waiotapu, the planting of the trees was undertaken by good-conduct prisoners at the Waiotapu Prison Camp. 2.  This planting continued apace and by "1926 some 47,000 acres had been planted on the Kaingaroa-Waiotapu blocks." 

Joan's book gives a great insight into why Rotorua still has a forestry industry today. 

Another not so well-known industry in Rotorua c.1889-1900 was Sulphur Mining which was started by a Mr J.H. Taylor c.1889 when he purchased two pieces of land which encompassed the area "known locally as 'Sodom and Gomorrah' as sulphur deposits there were substantial" p.318 by 1893 Mr Taylor had sold his sulphur business to a Mr Wilson, By then other sulphur deposits were being worked by Maori... in Tikitere and Taheke" p.319. Don Stafford records that during this time "shipments of 100 tons to Auckland were not uncommon. Francis Moss Boord was one of the 1st and probably largest dealers."
Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, AWNS-19021211-4-3

Another industry in Rotorua in the 1920's was our Rotorua 'mud' which made good 'face powder' which 'takes the tone of any complexion' as reported in the Bay of Plenty Times 4.8.1927. This industry was still very much in vogue in 1936 when the Rotorua Morning Post reported this :'Tourist Department workman commenced excavating a quantity of thermal mud from a blowhole on the Arikikapakapa extension reserve' to be sent to health spas in England.

With thanks to the Don Stafford Collection, Commerce folder for this interesting snippet. 

*Tourists of today are still buying Rotorua Mud products at all good souvenir shops.


To read more of Rotorua's history look out for books by Don Stafford, Phil Andrews and Enid Tapsell.