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
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.
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.
- 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.
Production of eucalypt Kraft pulp at the rate of 90 tonnes per day commenced, and the first pilot runs of paper were produced.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
Wooster R The long road from seed to paper. Page 4-18 December 1984/January 1985 Logger an AFIJ publication