Kawerau is a town in the Bay of Plenty region of the North Island of New Zealand. The town is situated 100 km south-east of Tauranga and 58 km east of Rotorua. It is the seat of, and the sole town in, the Kawerau District Council. Kawerau is a small community, with the main industry being the nearby Norske Skog Tasman pulp and paper mill. It is located along State Highway 34 southwest of Onepu, and is the terminus of the East Coast Main Trunk Railway and the commencing point of the Murupara Branch railway.
Kawerau was also one of the worst-affected towns in the 1987 Edgecumbe earthquake. Kawerau is one of the youngest towns in New Zealand. It was founded in 1953 as a mill town for the new Tasman pulp and paper mill. The site for the mill was chosen because of the ready availability of geothermal energy, water from the Tarawera River and the large supply of pine timber from the nearby Kaingaroa forest. Unlike most other towns of its size, Kawerau was carefully planned before construction.
The town was built with an impressive number of facilities, to accommodate a multinational specialist workforce. The mill continues to drive the local economy and greatly influences the fortunes of the town. The town's population peaked in the early 1980s (8718 in the 1981 census) but has declined significantly since then due to the restructuring of the mill and associated industries.