One of Rotorua's largest employers is celebrating 70 years this month.

Crown Research Institute Scion was established in April 1947 when the then State Forest Service started a forest experiment station beside the existing nursery at Whakarewarewa Forest.

Its decision to centralise forestry research laid the foundation for today's Scion that supports New Zealand's third largest export industry.

Scion employs more than 300 people at offices in Rotorua and Christchurch and, according to Scion chief executive Dr Julian Elder, its research areas have evolved dramatically in the past 70 years.

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In the 1950s research into growth modelling for forests and timber engineering had only just begun, but some of the timber drying, preservation and fibre production that were developed then are still used today.

Scion now works in fields from genetics to the design and use of wood, fibre and other forest resources reflecting the enormous increase in uses for forests and their products over the past 70 years and are now used as sources of energy for liquid biofuels, feedstock for high performance bioplastic in car components and adhesives in sustainable wood products.

"In our 70 years, Scion has undertaken research that has brought benefits to forestry in New Zealand and around the world," Dr Elder said.

"It was our scientists who helped analyse the brown-rot fungi in the Auckland leaky homes in 2004, and it was our science that helped resolve technical issues with the production of wooden beams for the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

"Trees are very important to New Zealand, for our economy, our lifestyles and our environment.

"Going forward, their significance will continue to grow and we will continue to serve New Zealand by optimising forests and protecting them from potential risks and diseases.

"This 70th anniversary is an opportunity look back on those achievements, but also to look forward as we continue to grow New Zealand through trees."

Celebrations at Scion commenced with an in-house event on April 10 and a commemorative staff photo.

Activities and events are planned throughout 2017 to honour Scion's past and look to the future.