Saturday, 1 July 2017

Business in Rotorua : Timber Mills

Early Timber Mills c.1888-1915.

Book Review : Tall trees & tramways / by Bryon Somervell c2011.

Mr Somervell, local Rotorua resident until his death in 2013, wrote this book about the early mills of Mamaku, Rotoiti, Ngatira, Oropi, Te Whaiti, Urewera, Maungapohatu, Pukareao and Reporoa-Rerewhakaaitu, and the tram-ways built to transport the timber to sale yards.

Most of these mills are no longer in business, but in their heyday when native trees were plentiful, the owners employed many men in various jobs.  The earliest mill belonged to the Steele brothers who were able to purchase leases, from the government railways owners, of bush land in what is known as Mamaku, in 1888. The brothers continued in business until 1954, owning some land also in Tutanekai Street which bordered Amohia & Eruera Streets, of Rotorua where they sold the timber, built an Assembly Hall and a stately home.   Other early pioneers in this industry were the Kusabs brothers, A.W. Roe & Co., Arahiwi Timber Co., and a number of smaller mills.   The author has researched widely and in depth to bring us this fascinating look at Rotorua history and the founding industry that continues to this day.   Illustrated throughout with photographs and maps.

Steele's Assembly Hall, Tutanekai Street. Original photograph owned by Rotorua Museum

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