The Wood Processing Cluster is the Trust’s most significant direct investment, one that has the long-term potential to boost the regional economy, open up new applications for locally grown wood, and continue creating employment opportunities.

In 2015, a strategic sector intervention saw the Trust buy the Prime sawmill site at Matawhero, which was empty and unused following a string of failed ventures.

Given the region’s well-established forestry industry, coupled with rising demand for housing, we identified a prime opportunity to boost local wood processing. In turn, this would maximise direct and flow-on benefits for the region.

We upgraded the industrial-zoned land and buildings and leased them to two companies, Kiwi Lumber and Wood Engineering Technology (WET). This has created a unique cluster that combines a well-established, traditional sawmill plant with a start-up business aiming to commercialise an innovative new processing technology.

Building momentum

Combined, Kiwi Lumber and WET now employ about 90 staff on site. They continue to grow their operations and capacity. In the last two years alone, two major projects with a capital expenditure of $23m have been completed.

At the Kiwi Lumber sawmill, productivity investments were made in state-of-the-art equipment from overseas, including a planer and cut-to-length optimiser system, to modernise the sawmill manufacturing process.

WET’s first manufacturing line was a pilot plant. Taking the learnings from this, they developed a new building and infrastructure to house a second manufacturing line. Plant and equipment has been installed, with operations due to start soon. WET continue to increase their supply of product for local construction.

“The Wood Processing Cluster established by the Trust is a long-term investment for Tairāwhiti. It will continue to drive increased processing of our logs and product innovation in the region, creating further high-value jobs and building our economic resilience.”


— Richard Searle, General Manager Economic Development

Successful co-funding model

The direct investment from the Trust has unlocked ongoing Government funding, with Kānoa – Regional Economic Development and Investment Unit providing a combination of grants and loans to both businesses. We have facilitated and managed this in our role as the region’s economic development agency.

Total funding from the Trust, central Government and private capital is approaching $100 million.

416.6 GWh

of renewable energy generated 2022/23


Approx. total investment by the Trust, Government and private capital.

Over 50% of funding provided by Kānoa – Regional Economic Development and Investment Unit.


full-time jobs created

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