The development of the Australian paper industry and the Victorian forest industry are intrinsically linked. The research undertaken to use short fibred eucalypt pulps to replace imported long fibred softwood pulp in the 1930’s represented a major technological triumph for Australia. What began in 1868 on the banks of Melbourne’s Yarra River, today contributes over nine hundred million dollars annually to Australia’s gross domestic product.
The Company’s fire protection was very conventional when I took over the role of Fire Protection Officer in about 1982. We had a fleet of 4x4 and 6x4 fire tankers, several D7 sized dozers and some Caterpillar graders. All our fire crews were Company employees and had, in the main, many years of accumulated experience at wildfire suppression. We had 6 registered CFA Brigades, which meant that we could give the rank of CFA Captain to 6 of our Incident Controllers. This was handy at times, although there was a tacit agreement amongst local CFA volunteers that our Incident Controller would be in charge of fires on our property and they would be in charge of fires outside our property.
APM Forests was established in 1951 by APM Limited to manage the input of wood from State Forest into the Maryvale Pulp and Paper Mill, but more importantly to establish a source of softwood fibre to allow the production of strong papers (cardboard and sacks). APMF began planting pines in Gippsland in 1951 southwest of Sale on the sandy soils of the coastal plain. Over the next 40 years the estate grew to a total of approximately 85,000 hectares of which 42,500 was pine plantation (P.radiata) and 7,000 eucalypt plantation (mainly E.regnans) with the remainder being native forest. This land was mostly freehold title with a smaller amount (ca. 11,000 ha) being in long-term leases from the Victorian Government – mainly on the northern half of the Strzelecki Ranges.
After a number of small nursery sites were used in the early years, an ongoing nursery was established at Crookes Creek Longford in the mid 1950’s which is on the Southern side of the Longford Rosedale Road.
When the Company first started using pine for pulping, they had no plantations of their own. They sourced pine pulpwood from Government plantations in various parts of Victoria and South Australia, and the wood was railed to Maryvale. It must have cost a great deal. I remember pulpwood being cut for Maryvale in the Forests Commission plantations at Stanley, in Victoria’s North East. The pulpwood billets were loaded on to a truck and were delivered to the railway station in Beechworth, where they were hand loaded into open rail wagons. They were then railed via Melbourne to Maryvale.