Valuable Rotorua history now available online

He’s been working on it tirelessly for six years, but Kerry Fowler knows the true value of documenting a decade of Rotorua history won’t be realised for years to come.


Mr Fowler is part way through a series of short films highlighting the history of Rotorua, starting ahead of the change of the millennium on December 31, 1999 and running through until January 1, 2010.


With funding from the Rotorua Trust, Mr Fowler has spent countless hours researching the big stories of each month of each year, sourcing footage and filming interviews.


Mr Fowler says it is friend and Rotorua historian, the late Don Stafford, who inspired the idea, describing it as “Don’s legacy”.


Taking on a decade seemed a “nice round period of time” and Mr Fowler’s background in producing and directing formed the perfect basis for him to start the project.


“It is a record of a time. Its true value will be in 20 or 30 years, when some of us are gone.”


Mr Fowler says he’s not aware of a project like this being attempted elsewhere, due to the sheer cost of doing it with a full professional production team.


“By chance, after 50 years in the television industry, I have the skill set that enables me to do almost all the work myself.


“Rotorua is the perfect size and has the complexity and an outstanding variety of events, issues and concerns compared to anywhere else of a similar size. We’ve made this especially aimed towards the Rotorua audience.”


While Mr Fowler has used some existing footage, he has also had to weave this together with interviews and streetscapes shot recently – not always an easy task given the significant changes between the city in the early 2000s and now.


With the help of a research assistant, Mr Fowler says each month normally requires about 15 hours of researching newspapers in the library before filming even starts. To complete a single month takes the best part of four to five weeks, he says.


“It’s quite fascinating, but it’s also disturbing because you are living in the past.”


Taking it month by month, Mr Fowler is now up to filming September 2007, while his researcher is up to mid-2008.


Rotorua Trust chairman Stewart Edward says the Trust is thrilled to provide financial support to see the documentaries come to life.


“Each film presents a moment in time and reminds us of the issues of the day – many of which we are still looking to resolve – and of the great personalities that helped shape Rotorua. The work Mr Fowler is doing will be an invaluable record of the city forever.”


The first of the documentaries, which are filmed in month instalments, is now available here. New episodes will be added every few weeks.


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