Minor urban area

Location of Kawerau in New Zealand

Coordinates: 38°06′S 176°42′E / 38.100°S 176.700°E / -38.100; 176.700
Country New Zealand
Region Bay of Plenty
Territorial authority Kawerau District
Established 1953
Electorates Rotorua (general)
Waiariki (Māori)
  Mayor Malcolm Campbell
  Deputy Mayor Bernie Joyes
  District 21.94 km2 (8.47 sq mi)
Population (June 2016)[1]
  District 6,800
  Density 310/km2 (800/sq mi)
  Urban 6,800
Time zone NZST (UTC+12)
  Summer (DST) NZDT (UTC+13)
Postcode 3127
Area code(s) 07

Kawerau is a town in the Bay of Plenty region of the North Island of New Zealand. It is situated 100 km south-east of Tauranga and 58 km east of Rotorua.[2] It is the seat of the Kawerau District Council, and the only town in Kawerau District.

Kawerau is a small community, with an economy that is largely driven by the nearby pulp and paper mill that is run by Norske Skog and Carter Holt Harvey. It is located along State Highway 34, southwest of Onepu, and is the terminus of the East Coast Main Trunk Railway, and the commencing point of the Murupara Branch railway.

Kawerau was one of the worst-affected towns in the 1987 Edgecumbe earthquake.


Kawerau is one of the youngest towns in New Zealand. It was founded in 1953 as a mill town for the new Tasman pulp and paper mill. The site for the mill was chosen because of the ready availability of geothermal energy, water from the Tarawera River and the large supply of pine timber from the nearby Kaingaroa forest.[3] Unlike most other towns of its size, Kawerau was carefully planned before construction. The town was built with an impressive number of facilities, to accommodate a multinational specialist workforce. The mill continues to drive the local economy and greatly influences the fortunes of the town. The town's population peaked in the early 1980s (8718 in the 1981 census) but has declined significantly since then due to the restructuring of the mill and associated industries.

In 2012 mill owner Norske Skog said it would be shutting one of the two newsprint machines at the mill.[4] In January 2013 it was confirmed nearly half the mill's jobs would be lost.[5] Norse Skog of Norway which is the world's second biggest producer of newsprint confirmed closure of one of its two paper machines at the Tasman Mill at Kawerau with the loss of 110 jobs. The company first announced its intention to shut one machine last September, following a review of its newsprint capacity in Australasia. The remaining Tasman machine would continue to produce newsprint predominantly for the New Zealand and Australian markets. Norske Skog management would work closely with employees, unions and other stakeholders on the detailed closure arrangements, including a mill-wide restructuring programme. Peter McCartey, General Manager of Tasman Mill said it was widely understood the decision had been brought about by global market forces within the industry. The second paper machine had operated successfully for over 50 years. Norske Skog has the widest geographical spread of all the paper producers, with mills in 11 countries on all continents except Africa.[6] Kawerau is also home to geothermal power supply Kawerau Power Station for the local industry as well as the rest of New Zealand.


The total population of the Kawerau District was 6,363 at the time of the 2013 census, a decrease of 8.1%, or 561 people, since the 2006 Census.[7] The population ranks 64th, out of 67 districts total, based on population size. In the census 51.8% of residents said they belong in the European ethnic group, while 61.8% said they belong to the Maori ethnic group. In contrast 14.9% of people in the whole of New Zealand responded as being Maori, meaning that Kawerau has a significantly higher Maori population than New Zealand as a whole. 4.2% of residents responded as being Pacific, and 2.4% responded as being Asian. Percentages do not total 100% as the Census allows an individual to be part of multiple ethnic groups.


Photograph taken near Prideaux Park, in Kawerau. Mt. Edgecumbe (Putauaki) can be seen.

The 820 m volcanic cone of Mount Edgecumbe/Putauaki lies 3 km to the east of Kawerau, and is easily visible from the town. The Tarawera River straddles Kawerau to the east and continues north to the Bay of Plenty. Water is supplied to the town from two natural springs. Kawerau's water was judged the best-tasting in New Zealand in 2003 and 2004.[8]

Kawerau has access to vast geothermal resources. There are a number of geothermal hot springs in the surrounding bush owned and operated by local families. The Kawerau geothermal field provides steam power for the paper mill, and a 90 MW geothermal power station is currently under construction.[9]

The District has a land area of 21.9357 km² (8.4694 sq mi), making it the smallest territorial authority in New Zealand in terms of land area. It is completely surrounded by the Whakatane District.


During summer (December to February), the average daily maximum temperature in Kawerau is 23.7 °C. In January 2008, the temperature exceeded 30 °C on five days. In winter (July to August) crisp early morning frosts are usually followed by clear, sunny days, and the average daily maximum temperature is around 15.6 °C.[10]

Rainfall is spread throughout the year, though it is not uncommon to experience a drought during summer.

Climate data for Kawerau, New Zealand
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 25.4
Daily mean °C (°F) 19.6
Average low °C (°F) 13.9
Average precipitation mm (inches) 125.3
Source: World Climate[11]


Plunket Street in the town centre during the 2009 Christmas Parade.

Kawerau hosts a number of events each year, including the National Woodskills Festival, 'King of the Mountain' race and the Tarawera 100 motorcycle endurance race. Kawerau is also growing as an event venue for white water rapid competitions such as kayaking and rafting. Kawerau was a venue for the 2013 World Rafting Championships.

Kawerau Woodfest & National Woodskills Competition

The National Woodskills Festival is a competition that encompasses a broad spectrum of wood craftsmanship and wood art. Some of the competitors are professionals but many are amateurs. The Woodskills Festival was first held in Kawerau in 1989 as a local competition. By 1991, the event had become such a popular annual competition that it was developed into a national event, attracting exhibitors from throughout New Zealand. The competition has now developed into a broader range of attractions which captivates many skills from the Forestry Industry and now takes over the town for the weekend, in what is known as Kawerau Woodfest.

The annual Kawerau Woodfest attracts hundreds of visitors from around the country making it the town's largest event and as a result is the highest economic beneficial event in Kawerau. As well as the Woodskills Festival there is an Arts & Crafts Festival with displays open on Saturday and Sunday at various venues around Kawerau.

Notable residents

See also


  1. "Subnational Population Estimates: At 30 June 2016 (provisional)". Statistics New Zealand. 21 October 2016. Retrieved 21 October 2016. For urban areas, "Subnational population estimates (UA, AU), by age and sex, at 30 June 1996, 2001, 2006-16 (2017 boundary)". Statistics New Zealand. 21 October 2016. Retrieved 21 October 2016.
  2. Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand: Kawerau
  3. Kawerau District Council: Information
  4. "Kawerau paper mill job losses confirmed". Radio New Zealand. January 9, 2013.
  5. "Job losses confirmed at Kawerau mill". 3 News NZ. January 9, 2013.
  6. Gray, Jamie (2013-01-09). "Norse Skog Cuts 110 Jobs". New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 2013-07-09.
  7. "2013 Census QuickStats about a place: Kawerau District". Retrieved 14 September 2014.
  8. Kawerau District Council: Water Supply
  9. New Zealand Geothermal Association: Geothermal fields
  10. Kawerau District Council: About Our District
  11. "Climate, Global Warming, and Daylight Charts and Data". World Charts. Retrieved 9 September 2014.

Coordinates: 38°06′S 176°42′E / 38.100°S 176.700°E / -38.100; 176.700

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