APM Forests - Timeline

R McCarthy (bio)



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 paper describes 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


Melbourne’s first paper mill established by Samuel Ramsden on the banks of the Yarra River at Southbank.
Fieldhouse paper mill next door to Ramsden’s mill Southbank.
Construction of the Barwon Paper Mill began near Geelong.
McDougall’s Mill built at Broadford & George Adam constructs a Sydney Mill.
Australian Paper Mills Company formed, combining the mill at Southbank with others at Broadford and Geelong.
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.
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.
Eucalypts in California pulped by boiling wood chips in caustic soda.
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.

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
Opal (was 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
History of Paper (Wikipedia)
Wooster R The long road from seed to paper. Page 4-18 December 1984/January 1985 Logger an AFIJ publication