Scion – Celebrating 75 years of impact

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Since it was established in 1947, the Forest Research Institute, which we now call Scion, has played a significant role in forest science for New Zealand.

This year, the Rotorua-based Crown Research Institute turns 75 and continues to deliver impact for New Zealand, not just across the forestry sector, but also in the area of biomaterials, bioenergy, waste and ecosystem services. This evolution represents the increasing importance of forests, and Scion’s commitment to enhancing New Zealand’s prosperity, wellbeing and environment through trees.

Scion’s science helps a range of decision makers, from business and landowners through to local and central Government, to make informed choices. Our thought leaders featured in the Government’s May 2022 Emissions Reduction Plan towards creating a circular economy with a thriving bioeconomy for example.

In April 1947, the State Forest Service established a Forest Experiment Station beside the existing nursery at Whakarewarewa Forest. The decision to centralise forestry research laid the foundation for Scion today, supporting New Zealand’s third largest export industry.

Scion’s research helped establish and grow New Zealand’s forestry sector. With 7.7 million hectares of planted forests, forestry adds $6 to $7 billion to the economy annually in export revenue and provides jobs for around 35,000 people.

Research highlights across the organisation have been many – genetic improvement of radiata pine, overcoming many forest health challenges and biosecurity incursions, supporting development of sustainable forest management practices to ensure maintenance of productivity and license to operate, the creation of forestry management models and leading the industry in the use of remote sensing, precision forestry tools and big data to grow the forests of tomorrow.. Scion’s research and expertise in timber has impacted most building products in New Zealand.

Ground-breaking research on carbon capture has helped quantify how our fast-growing forests are adept at capturing carbon. Trees provide a long-term carbon sink while protecting our unique biodiversity, water quality and help reduce soil erosion.

For the past 20 years Scion has been actively researching how to develop renewable chemicals, materials and energy from forest resources. These reflect increasing international interest in substitutes for fuels and materials made from fossil fuels and our need to enhance environmental performance and energy security. These concerns are much greater today as the world has suffered supply chain shocks due to Covid-79, conflict and climate change.

Significant achievements across 75 years have built Scion’s reputation as a world-leader in forest industry research and technology development.

Scion has more than 300 staff located at its headquarters in Rotorua, as well as offices in Christchurch and Wellington.

Over the next 12 months, a range of activities and events will be held online and across the three cities as the organisation celebrates the 75th anniversary.

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