PF Olsen Celebrates 40 Years of Business

In 1970 when John Spencer built the Caxton Paper Mill, he approached the NZ Forest Service to develop a resource of radiata pine to supply the mill. However, Peter Olsen, the Principal Forester at Kaingaroa at the time, had to tell John that this was beyond the mandate of the Forest Service.

But rather than leave it at that, Peter Olsen decided to meet John Spencer's needs; he left the Forest Service and set up PF Olsen and Company Ltd in 1971. Initially the fledgling company operated out of Peter's home in Goodwin Ave, Rotorua. Peter's early colleagues were Cliff Robilliard, Morrie Geenty and Peter Wallis. They soon moved to larger premises in Clayton Road, and by 1974, as the staff expanded, PF Olsen acquired 430 Ngongotaha Road. This site included three hectares of land and served as the company head office for the next 33 years. In late 2007, again due to the need for increased office space, PF Olsen moved to a custom-built office on the Te Papa Tipu Innovation Park at 99 Sala Street, Rotorua – where it is currently located (see photo).

PF Olsen started its first afforestation programme with about 100 hectares of planting in Omataroa Forest in 1971. Peter Olsen negotiated the lease of this 7,000 ha block of Maori owned land for Caxton. The woolshed at Omataroa became the first branch office, once the sheep had been removed from the block. The opening of the Gisborne branch office by Peter Wallis happened shortly afterwards.

From these humble beginnings, PF Olsen has continued to grow and now celebrates 40 years service in the Rotorua and New Zealand forest communities. PF Olsen now has a total of 15 offices, 13 of which span New Zealand, and three in Australia. A total of 107 New Zealand staff are responsible for the management of some 170,000 hectares of forest across New Zealand, the harvesting of some 3.8 million m³ of logs each year (about 16% of the annual NZ log harvest), operating a containerised forestry nursery in South Auckland and two control-pollinated seed orchards in Marlborough. Six staff are based in Australia.

The founder, Peter Olsen, would no doubt feel satisfied that the company has continued to expand under Peter Clark, who joined the firm in 1979 and was promoted to CEO after Peter Olsen died in 1998. Despite the company growing significantly, especially since 2004, continuity of leadership and senior staff who recall life as a small player in the New Zealand forest industry has enabled PF Olsen to retain a culture of integrity, professionalism, team work and client focus. As big supporters of industry-good initiatives, PF Olsen is an active member of all forestry industry associations and research cooperatives.

PF Olsen is expecting somewhat of a "renaissance" in new forest planting spurred on by the NZ Emissions Trading Scheme.

"After new planting peaked at just under 98,000 hectares in 1994, it has slowly declined to almost nothing in 2007", points out Peter Clark. "With the addition of carbon credit revenue in new plantings, the financial returns from forestry improve considerably, and we are getting heightened interest in new planting projects.

"In addition, our Market-Direct export log initiative is materially improving prices forest owners are receiving for the logs. This is keeping us very busy at the harvesting end of our business", adds Mr Clark.

PF Olsen growth necessitated the move to a larger purpose-built office at the Te Papa Tipu Innovation Park, 99 Sala Street, Rotorua.