The Maryvale Mills are a cluster of three pulpmills, five paper machines, waste paper recycling plants and other facilities near Morwell in Victoria. Nearby are the ash forests of the Central Highlands, some of the most spectacular tall forests in the world, home to threatened species like Leadbeater’s Possum and the Greater Glider and subject of widely supported campaign for their permanent protection in a Great Forests National Park.

For 82 years and counting, the Maryvale Mills have had a guaranteed supply of pulp logs from the ash forests. If the legislated wood pulp agreement runs until 2030 as planned, successive owners of the mills will have had nearly a century of exclusive rights over vast swathes of much loved public native forests.

Now the logs are running out, the forests are at risk of ecological collapse. It’s crunch time.

Read Chris Taylor’s report Nippon Paper Industries and the Wood Pulp Agreement

How did we get here

The Maryvale Mills source wood and fibre from native forests, plantations (softwood and hardwood) and recycled paper. Native forest wood is used, together with plantation wood, to manufacture printing and writing paper (in particular Reflex) and packaging.

The use of native forest wood, both directly from the forest and from sawmill offcuts, has been highly contentious for decades.

The Mountain Ash and Alpine Ash forests being clearfelled to supply Maryvale are home to threatened species including the critically endangered Leadbeater’s Possum, and the vulnerable Greater Glider. They protect water catchments, play an important role in climate regulation and are much-loved places for recreation and adventure. The Mountain Ash forest ecosystem itself is red-listed as critically endangered by IUCN. A long-running widely supported campaign is calling for these forests to be permanently protected in the Great Forest National Park.

Controversially and uniquely the Maryvale Mills are the beneficiaries of a continuous series of legislated agreements to supply pulp logs from Victoria’s public native forests dating back to 1936. The most recent agreement made in 1996 extended the guarantee until 2030 (Forests (Wood Pulp Agreement) Act 1996a remarkable 94 years – if it survives. As well as the pulp logs guaranteed under the legislative supply agreement (LSA), the Maryvale mills obtain even more native forest wood under a separate Timber Supply Agreement with the Victorian government.

The Maryvale facility is owned by Paper Australia Pty Ltd (trading as Australian Paper), a wholly owned subsidiary of Nippon Paper Industries in Japan. When Nippon acquired Paper Australia and the Maryvale facility in 2009 the previous owner PaperlinX had committed to exiting native forests by 2017. Under Nippon’s ownership, Paper Australia abandoned plans to stop logging native forests and, until now, has made little significant investment apart from a subsidised de-inking plant to increase the use of recycled fibre opened in 2015. In 2017 it began a feasibility study for a waste to energy plant and has floated the idea of manufacturing new ‘bioproducts’ if it can secure a ‘non-contentious’ supply of wood.

Both the forests and industry face a crisis. Extensive fires and over-cutting are driving the forests towards collapse. VicForests has had to reduce the amount of wood it can supply to sawmills (but not Maryvale). Logging, driven largely by the legislated supply to the Maryvale Mills, is destroying ever more contentious forests.

Nippon has had 10 years to stop logging native forests. Crunch time is now.

Read Chris Taylor’s report Nippon Paper Industries and the Wood Pulp Agreement