Our Story

The creation of Canopy Tours zipline in Rotorua

Our Story

Rotorua Canopy Tours

It was never just about the ziplines, it was about delivering a mind-blowing forest experience!

Rotorua Canopy Tours vision was to offer a lifechanging encounter with the natural world that would delight both international visitors and inspire New Zealanders. The forest would provide the magic setting – the ziplines in Rotorua, swing bridges, cliff walkways and other features were simply a way to experience it.

So, keep reading, because here it is – the story about how a vision became a business, and how the business became a sought-after icon….


How the journey began

It all started in 2008 with James Fitzgerald, a young guy with a bold vision and his buddy, engineer Andy Blackford. James’ vision was to create a visitor experience that was so removed from the real world that it would become the most premium and sought-after experience in the whole of New Zealand. An experience so bold that adventure, education, conservation, natural beauty and people would collide to create an experience with no peers…

So, they got to work….


Canopy Tours has been working to restore the forest since the beginning and now have over 250ha trapped. This photo is of the pests that were removed on just one of th nights. 

James and Andrew spent months building the zipline in Rotorua and had to be think outside the box to achieve their goals. Here is the spud-gun they used to shoot the lines across the forest. 

In 2016 James and Andrew were delighted to celebrate receiving tourism’s highest award.
James (left), Chris Roberts – TIA Chief Executive (centre), Andrew (right).

Demand grew and in 2018 we opened the Ultimate Canopy Tour which included never seen before features

In 7 years the team at Rotorua Canopy Tours quickly expanded and now have over 60 staff!

They found a piece of stunning native forest that had stood for centuries just on the outskirts of Rotorua. They worked for months hauling in timber and supplies through the forest and high up into the canopy, and with the help from friends and locals they built the zipline in Rotorua, and in 2012 shared it with the world.

The customers started slow (with the first ones being bribed by free pizza), and then as word got out more turned up, then more, then more, then more. So many that within 6 years the team had grown from 3 to 60!

Today – 9 years on…

And so, 9 years on since Rotorua Canopy Tours opened the doors, we can claim to have ticked all the boxes, won every award, delighted 10,000’s of people, restored a forest and delivered on this far sighted vision.

Today, under inspirational leader, Paul Button, the business continues to provide outstanding experiences every day for those people that choose to become part of the Rotorua Canopy Tours experience.

Customers are still buzzing out; the media are still writing stories and awards are still rolling in. But, the two kiwi mates, James and Andy, have never lost touch of what Rotorua Canopy Tours is all about.

So, come and be part of the story, create your own memories and judge it all for yourself!


While building the zipline in Rotorua James and Andrew grew more and more aware of the deathly silence. This was a native forest that should be filled with birdsong…. something needed to be done!

They knew there was a problem and made a promise to return this forest to a prehuman state so everyone could experience what a native forest in New Zealand should be.

In 2013 after running the tour for a year they had saved up enough money to get started on their conservation dream. To date they have spent over $500,000 of customers money to purchase possum and rat traps. The guides worked every day removing 1000’s of rats and possums and the native birds began to return, and the ancient forest came back to life.


Tourism was restoring nature!





















Today, Rotorua Canopy Tours has worked to trap over 250ha of the forest thanks to our customers coming on tour. We have seen amazing results, see the photos above, the possums have gone, and the trees have been able to restore and flourish. Native animals are returning including long-tailed cuckoo -koekoeā, rare striped skink, tom tit and North Island robin.


Our team are highly engaged and absolutely love their jobs. Our guides are all kiwis who love the outdoors and have amazing personal stories and great information to share that brings the forest to life.

No matter their background, each of our guides go through a rigorous induction program and run continual training on the zipline in Rotorua to ensure all guides are competent and confident in all of our zipline safety systems.

Our customer experience and office team pride themselves on delivering the best possible customer experience each and every time.

So, why don’t you get to know our team….

  • Meet Paul Button, Canopy Tours General Manager. Paul loves to run and is currently training for a 100-mile race!

  • Meet Guide Cheynne, she is one of our lead guides who has grown up in the Bay of Plenty and loves getting out into the forest.

  • Meet Guide Dan! Dan has been at Canopy Tours since the very beginning and has guided over 2000 tours!

  • Meet Guide Paul, Paul is our nature spotter. He has discovered a number of rare finds in the forest!


Since the beginning Rotorua Canopy Tours has set out to deliver a world class experience to our customers every time and do the best for the environment we operate in. We have been incredibly proud of the achievements we have worked to receive over the years for our outstanding visitor experience and what we are doing to improve the environment.

TECNZ named Rotorua Canopy Tours 2016 Operator of the year. 

Paul Button (far right) celebrates with other Rotorua winners after receiving the 100% Pure New Zealand Award. 

Rotorua Canopy Tours team get in for a selfie with Rt Hon Sir John Key after winning at the Air New Zealand Tourism Awards.

The team celebrate after taking out another 3 awards including Business of the Year at the Westpac Business Awards.

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