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.
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.
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.
APM Forests (APMF) was formed in 1951 by Australian Paper Manufacturers (APM) (which became a wholly-owned subsidiary of AMCOR Ltd) with the primary aim of supplying economic pulpwood to APM's Maryvale Mill in Gippsland, through the establishment of a plantation base and co-ordination of pulpwood harvesting. APMF operations included:
By 2001, the APMF gross land holding (including freehold and leasehold land) in Gippsland was 85,000ha. Of this land base:
By 2001, the volume of wood harvested annually both from APMF plantations and State Forests was approximately 1.4 million tonnes. In that year the plantations were sold to Hancock Victorian Plantations (HVP).
To plan plantation and industrial development within Gippsland, APMF constructed a long-term plantation planning model using simulation and linear programming techniques. This model undertook explicit evaluation of the combination and interactions of establishment method, tree breeding, fertilisation, thinning type and clear-felling age.
APMF's geographic information system incorporated the results of an extensive soil survey and associated mapping exercise across the whole estate. For each site this defined prescriptive treatments for soil cultivation, nutritional requirements and use of weedicide. An example is given in Table 1 of this work in relation to P. radiata.
"Let us regard the forest as an inheritance, not to be destroyed or devastated, but to be wisely used, reverently honoured and carefully maintained. Let us regard the forest as a gift, entrusted to any of us only for transient care, to be surrendered to posterity as an unimpaired property, increased in riches and augmented in blessings, to pass as a sacred patrimony from generation to generation."
Baron Ferdinand von Mueller - Suggestions on the Maintenance, Creation and Enrichment of Forests (1879)