APM Forests - Timeline

R McCarthy (bio)

 

Overview

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 major products of the Australian paper industry today are the linerboard and corrugated paper used by the fibre box industry, newsprint, printing and writing paper, bag, sack and other industrial papers, cartonboards, tissues and towellings.

There is a document describing the history of making paper available here and this paperdescribes the positions of the three major companies that arise from this history of plantation expansion and pulp and paper making.

History of Paper Making in Australia and the Role of APM Forests

The paper making industry in the Australian colonies was founded on rag and waste paper. High international freight costs meant wood pulp was not available.

Because the world’s pulping industry was based on the softwood forests of Europe and the Americas, the Australian papermaking industry remained static for decades.

During the Depression, which commenced in 1929, APM Ltd was concerned with its growing imports, particularly of bleached and unbleached sulphite pulp from the long fibres of the world’s softwoods. It employed scientists, LR Benjamin and his assistant RB Jeffreys during the 1930’s to find a local replacement using the short fibres of Australian eucalypts. The Kraft tests, using three batches of Eucalyptus regnans, were undertaken at the Kraft digester at the Botany Mill NSW, and gave the promise of a pulp which was easy to bleach.

Further testing showed:

  • that the age of the wood was just as important as the species of tree
  • the area where the species grew was of paramount importance – young E. regnansfrom eastern Victoria was much superior to that from southern Tasmania
  • fine printing papers could be made from several eucalypt species
  • by adding some long fibre pulp to the pulp made from Australian eucalypts, excellent newsprint could be made for high speed printing presses
The Maryvale Mill

In 1936, APM decided to build the Maryvale Kraft mill in the Latrobe Valley. In December of that year, the Victorian Parliament gave APM the right to log timber in the eastern forests.

Maryvale Mill Gippsland was established in 1937. It was the pioneer of a new type of wood pulp production, not only in Australia but globally, using native eucalypts through the technique known as the “Kraft” process. By 1939, this new Kraft mill had an annual capacity of 28,000 tonnes of wood pulp.

In 1986, Australian Paper Manufacturers was renamed AMCOR Limited.

In April 2000, AMCOR demerged its business printing papers to focus on global packaging. The spin off company was named Paperlinx (which included Australian Paper and Australian Paper Plantations Pty Ltd).

In June 2009, Paperlinx’s manufacturing business - Australian Paper – Maryvale Mill Latrobe Valley Victoria was sold to Nippon Paper Group Inc. of Japan.

In 2018, 80 years of papermaking at Maryvale Mill was celebrated.

Today (2019) Maryvale Mill is an integrated pulp and paper mill, producing both wood pulp and paper, owned by Australian Paper, (a subsidiary of the Nippon Paper Group of Japan)

APM Forests (APMF)

APM Forests was formed in 1951 by Australian Paper Manufacturers (which became a wholly owned subsidiary of AMCOR Ltd.) with the primary aim of supplying pulpwood to the Maryvale Mill through the establishment of a plantation base and co-ordination of pulpwood harvesting.

APM Forests operations included:

  • Growing, harvesting and transportation of APMF plantation grown pine and eucalypt to Maryvale Mill
  • Negotiating wood price and supervising the supply of wood and wood chips from State Government and private suppliers
  • Growing, harvesting and transportation of APMF plantation grown sawlogs to APM Wood Products Sawmill Morwell
  • Sales of logs and seedlings to external customers
  • Establishment and maintenance of plantations
  • Research and development in tree breeding and tree growth

By 2001, APM Forests gross land holding (including freehold and leasehold land) in Gippsland was 85,000 hectares. Of this land base:

  • the net productive plantation area was some 62,500 hectares comprising 42,500 hectares of pine plantations; 7000 hectares of eucalypt plantations; 7000 hectares of eucalypt native forest and with plantation land awaiting replanting ( following plantation clear falling) of some 6000 hectares
  • The non-productive land base of some 22,500 hectares across the estate comprised land for roads; firebreaks; riparian strips; swamps; mineral resources; housing area; power transmission lines etc
  • The annual plantation establishment rates averaged from 1500 to 2000 hectares per annum

By 2001,the volume of wood harvested from both from APM Forests plantations and State Forests was approximately 1.4 million tonnes per year.

In 2001 APM Forest plantations were sold to Hancock Victorian Plantations (HVP).

Timeline of Paper Making in Australia as Related to APMF Development

1868-1912

 
1868
 
Melbourne’s first paper mill established by Samuel Ramsden on the banks of the Yarra River at Southbank.
 
 
1871
 
Fieldhouse paper mill next door to Ramsden’s mill Southbank.
 
 
1878
 
Construction of the Barwon Paper Mill began near Geelong.
 
 
1890
 
McDougall’s Mill built at Broadford & George Adam constructs a Sydney Mill.
 
 
1895
 
Australian Paper Mills Company formed, combining the mill at Southbank with others at Broadford and Geelong.
 
 
1900
 
The Barwon Paper Mill decided that paper price was sufficiently high to warrant importing wood pulp. However, World War 1 disrupted shipping and industry, and most countries became acutely aware of the need to be able to produce their own wood pulp and paper.
 
 
1906
 
GE Berquest (Swedish chemist and Engineer) made pulp from blue gum (Eucalyptus globulus) at the Caima Timber estate and Woodpulp Company in Portugal using the sulphite process.
 
 
1911
 
Eucalypts in California pulped by boiling wood chips in caustic soda.
 
 
1912
 
From Samuel Ramsden’s time the search for an Australian source of raw materials other than rags, bags and wastepaper has been going on. Tussock grass, rushes, flax, straw and various kinds of scrub had been tried without success. It was the conventional wisdom of the world industry that pulp for paper came from the long fibred softwood conifers of the northern Hemisphere. Approximately 95% of Australian timber species were hardwood, mostly short-fibred eucalypts of several hundred different species. The challenge to secure a local wood pulp was compelling because the cost of imported wood pulp was burdensome. The Commonwealth government saw the need and, under the Wood Pulp and Rock Phosphate Bounty act of 1912, it established a rate of 15% on the market value of wood pulp from Australian timber for a period of five years from January 1913.
 

1912-1936

 
1913
 
The French pulped eucalypts.
 
 
1918
 
A visiting French forester informed Lane Poole (then Conservator of Western Australian Forests) that pulping tests of eucalypts at Grenoble had been promising.
 
 
1919
 
The prospect was passed to I H Boas lecturer in Chemistry at the Perth technical College who was joined by L R Benjamin who undertook experimental trials on pulping eucalypts. The West Australian government provided some support for a forest products laboratory on condition the Commonwealth Government established and maintained the mill for experiments in pulping.
 
 
1920
 
The Sydney and Melbourne paper mill combinations are amalgamated.
 
 
1920/21
 
The work was taken over by Commonwealth Institute of Science and Industry (now CSIRO) directed by IH Boas, supported by State Forestry Departments and Australian Paper Mills in Melbourne.
 
 
1922
 
The first successful tests by Boas and Benjamin were carried out at the APM mill at Fyansford.
 
 
1926
 
Amcor commenced operations, trading as Australian Paper Manufactures limited (APM), from the Sydney and Melbourne paper mill combinations and including the Cumberland Paperboard Mills of Lane Cove.
 
 
Early 1930s
 
Much politicking over the eucalypt forest resources in Tasmanian saw the formation of APPM and ANM.
 
 
1936
 
APM Directors Denison, Norman Brookes and Gepps (Managing Director, APM, 1936-1948) gave an undertaking to Albert Lind, Minister for Lands in the Dunstan Country Party Government, to proceed immediately with a pulp and paper project in Gippsland, providing the Government gave access to a forest concession and supported arrangements for essential transport, water supply and power services. The Government saw the shape of a great new industry providing for decentralisation, employment, increased fire protection and reforestation on a large scale, in a Government-industry partnership in silviculture in the wasteland of the abandoned farms.
 

1936-1938

 
7 December 1936
 
Wilfred Brookes (Superintendent of Development, APM) signed an agreement with AV Galbraith, Chairman of the FCV, which became the Wood Pulp Agreement. The Agreement gave APM access to the mountain ash and mixed species eucalypts in East Gippsland.
 
 
23 December 1936
 
The above Agreement had to be ratified by an Act of Parliament because the FCV had no power to grant a lease for more than 20 years. APM was not prepared to commit 500,000 pounds to the project unless the lease was for 50 years. The Act was proclaimed on 23/12/36.

The agreement gave APM: 
  • Access to 223,000 hectares of state forests of which 122,000 hectares were reserved forests and 101,000 hectares were Crown lands.
  • Exclusive rights to draw from specified Crown Lands a minimum quantity of pulpwood, and the Crown was bound to make available at economic cost the required quantity.
  • On its part the company was bound to take or pay for not less than 90% of the minimum annual quantity.
The Act was unique in that under Section 31, it gave a private company power to compulsory acquire land – a power to be exercised only after a hearing before the then Department of Lands and Works and with approval of the Governor-in Council. Royalties were fixed at 3s 3d per cunit (100 cubic feet- 283 m3) for three years from the start of commercial production rising to 5s 3d per cunit when production reached 20,000 tons a year.

This Agreement was superseded by subsequent agreements, and in 1984, following a sharp downturn in the industry, the stipulated annual quantity was drastically reduced and the exclusive provisions of the Act were withdrawn.

The Company never exercised the power to acquire land.

APM’s plan in 1937 embraced the lease arrangements and later the acquisition of freehold for its own future plantations, and the encouragement of the surviving farmers in the area to plant pines to be purchased and harvested by the company.

 
 
1937
 
The site for the Maryvale mill was chosen.
  • it was close to major raw material sources
  • it had ready access to power from SEC Yallourn, water from the Latrobe River and brown coal from the SEC Yallurn North open-cut mine

A railway branch line was constructed by the Company over land it owned.

Homes for employees were constructed in collaboration with the State Savings Bank of Victoria. Within 5 years 90 houses had been built in and around Morwell and Traralgon.

 
 
1938
 
Wood procurement for the Mill commenced in 1938.

Production of eucalypt Kraft pulp at the rate of 90 tonnes per day commenced, and the first pilot runs of paper were produced.

 

1938-1960

 
1939
 
The worst bush fires in Victoria’s history. Almost total loss of prime source of mountain forests pulpwood in areas designated by the FCV for APM’s use.
     
Testing showed that the fire killed mountain ash salvaged could be used for pulp, and mixed species responded better than expected to tests. As a result operations at Maryvale continued.

Large quantities of fire killed wood were used for up to 15 years, along with wood of various species from the foothill forests.

 
 
1940
 
The Maryvale Mill No 1 Paper machine begins production.
 
 
1943
 
Production of wood cellulose at Maryvale Mill as a substitute for gun cotton for use by the Australian defence forces in World War Two.
 
 
1951
 
APM FORESTS Pty Ltd was formed to create a plantation resource and coordinate pulpwood procurement operations for the Maryvale Mill. RB Jeffries was the first Chairman and John Brookes was General Manager. The initial planting was 250 hectares of Pinus radiata. Over the first ten years plantings averaged approx. 900 hectares per year.

Research activities commenced with the first plantings in 1951. Activities included spacing and thinning; soils; nutrition; weed control; tree breeding; wood and pulp quality; planning; site preparation; and farm forestry program.
 
Small trial plantings of several species of eucalypts commenced in 1952 but remained at a small scale.

Some native forests were purchased from the start of APM Forest operations, including some natural regeneration on partially cleared farm land. Various thinning, timber stand improvement and other treatments were applied in the 1950s and 1960s but results were generally disappointing in terms of wood production.
 
 
1960
 
Commencement of the Strzelecki project in conjunction with the FCV. Successful establishment on this very steep topography was not readily available until control of browsing animals was available through the introduction of myxomatosis and the use of poisoning. The Strzelecki project included the leasing of two areas of State forest for a period of sixty years. These comprised scattered repurchased farms intermingled with properties purchased by APM Forests. Plantings were mainly of mountain ash ( Eucalyptus regnans) with some southern blue gum ( Eucalyptus globulus). In the 1960s plantings averaged about 200 hectares per year and in the 1970s, until the leasehold was completed, about 500 hectares per year.

APM Forests reaches its initial target of 12,000 hectares. With the continued expansion of Maryvale Mill (paper machines installed in 1940, 1956 and 1972) the target was increased on several occasions.

 

1960-1985

 
1962-64
 
Thinning commenced in 1962 in 12-year-old plantations. The total pine wood input to Maryvale at that time was approx. 50,000 cubic metres per year supplied from State plantations. Input doubled the next year and redoubled in 1970. However this young wood was not particularly attractive to Maryvale.The discovery of the wood wasp Sirex noctilio, made the larger scale thinning of the plantations an urgent matter. As an outlet for this young wood, a particleboard factory, jointly owned by CSR and APM Forests was established at Rosedale. Production commenced in 1964 and wood intake increased to 50,000 cubic metres per year. Because of its small size, this factory became unprofitable and was closed at the end of 1978. Later on biological control of Sirex was developed. During this period, the plantations were managed very intensively; thinning commencing at age 10 to 11 years and then at two to three year intervals.
 
 
1970s
 
Eucalypt project plantings of about 500 hectares per year continued until the leasehold was completed.
 
 
1976
 
The Pinus radiata plantations were planted initially for pulpwood only, but by the mid 1970s when the oldest plantations were 25 years old, the suitability of the resource for sawn timber was investigated. The Gippsland Woodmill at Morwell was constructed with log intake commencing in 1976. It started at 50,000 m3 rising to 100,000 m3 in 1988. Planting rates were increased in 1973 for a new envisaged Kraft mill of 150,000 tonnes of pulp per year. To ensure this increased demand could be met research and planning model work was accelerated. However difficult trading conditions postponed this work.
 
 
1977
 
The No 4 paper machine at the Maryvale mill begins production of liner board for cardboard boxes.
 
 
1985
 
The new pine Kraft mill at Maryvale commenced operations with a capacity of 160,000 tonnes per year.
 

1985-2018

 
1986
 
Australian Paper Manufacturers was renamed AMCOR Limited.

In the 1980s APM decided to expand significantly into the business papers segment of the paper market, which involved a major rebuild of a paper machine and expansion of bleached eucalypt pulp output, requiring increasing input of eucalypt wood. The eucalypt plantation program was reactivated in 1986 coupled with an expansion of eucalypt research.

 
 
1987
 
The Maryvale Mill celebrates 50 years of production.
 
 
1990
 
Output from the plantations in 1990 was 650-700,000 cubic metres per year of pulpwood, sawlogs and external sales. Priority is given to peeler log sales where logs are of suitable quality. In recent times, the silviculture regime includes three thinnings, commencing at age 14-15 years and clear-felling at age 26 to 28 years.
 
 
1998
 
Victorian government plantations sold to Hancock Victorian Plantations.
 
 
1999
 
Maryvale No 5 machine begins the production of high-performance office paper.
 
 
April 2000
 
AMCOR demerges its business printing papers to focus on global packaging. The spin off company was named Paperlinx, and included Australian Paper and Australian Paper Plantations Pty Ltd.
 
 
August 2001
 
Hancock Victoria Plantations Holdings Pty Ltd purchases the assets of Australian Paper Plantations for over A$150 million.
 
 
Sept 2001
 
Australian Paper Plantations Pty Ltd changed its name to Grand Ridge Plantations Pty Ltd (a subsidiary of Hancock Victoria Plantations Holdings Pty Ltd).
 
 
Sept 2008
 
New ECF light bleaching plant at Maryvale.
 
 
June 2009
 
Paperlinx’s manufacturing business - Australian Paper–Maryvale Mill Latrobe Valley, Victoria, sold to Nippon Paper Group Inc. of Japan.
 
 
2011
 
Grand Ridge Plantations and Hancock Victorian Plantations changed their trading name to HVP.

Melbourne-based HVP is one of Australia’s largest private timber plantation companies. The company is owned by a combination of Australian, Canadian and US superannuation and investment funds. The Hancock Timber Resource Group (HTRG), based in Boston, acts as overseeing manager on behalf of investors.
 
 
2015
 
Maryvale Mill A$90 million wastepaper recycling plant begins production.
 
 
2018
 
80 years of paper making at the Maryvale Mill.
 
References

AMCOR
APM Ltd Publication. MARYVALE MILL 1979
APM Ltd Publication. APM TODAY 1980
APM Forests Farm Woodlots in Gippsland - 1991 edition. A guide for farmers, investors and tree planters
Australian Paper
Chandler W G Pine plantings operations of APM Forests Pty Ltd. Paper presented to ANZAAS 29 Meeting August 1957
Hancock Victorian Plantations   
Kitchener D T The Australian Pulpwood Story July 1979 - Produced by the Tasmanian Forestry Commission for the Australian Forestry Council
McGregor Peter PAPER 1988 - Part of the made in Australia learning activity topics ISBN 0 0949219185
Mann M.J. APM Forests plantation projects – the first forty years.
Page 157 Prospects for Australian Forest plantations edited by John Dargavel and Noel Semple, CRES ANU 1990
Murray P R Paper and people APM 1981
Noble W S The Strzeleckis - A new future for the Heartbreak Hills
Sinclair S. K. The Spreading Tree – A History of APM and AMCOR 1844 – 1989
Wikipedia
Wooster R The long road from seed to paper. Page 4-18 December 1984/January 1985 Logger an AFIJ publication

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