Whatakane Mill Completes $100M Expansion

Whakatane Mill Limited (WML), the only folding box board mill in Australasia, has successfully completed a $100m expansion upgrade of its paper machine and associated groundwood plant.

This investment marks the most significant capital expenditure for WML since 2004 and demonstrates a long-term commitment to the paper industry in Australia, New Zealand and internationally.

WML is a market leading producer of folding box board for the food and beverage markets. This box board is used as the consumer packaging for items such as cereal boxes, biscuit boxes, multipack soda can packaging and alcoholic beverage cartons. It is highly prized for its smoothness, strength and capability to aesthetically print brand owner graphics and messaging on pack.

The Mill sources renewable fibres responsibly and creates fully recyclable products, supported by a local workforce of 185 people. The Whakatane Mill is the only folding box board mill in the Australasian geography.

The major works completed include the installation of a state-of-the-art shoe press and film sizer, a high speed fully automated winder and a robotised packing line, complemented by an extensive renewal of the heat and condensate system.

This expansion will deliver a higher yielding, smoother and whiter board product and 50,000 tonnes of additional capacity annually for the folding box board market, giving the Mill an overall annual capacity of 200,000 tonnes.

Enhanced sustainability

Upgrade improvements will deliver per tonne electricity reductions of 30% in the groundwood mill section, while the improved heat recovery system will lead to a 30% reduction in gas consumption. WML’s water consumption from the local river will also see a significant decrease as a result of the recently installed disc filter.

WML will eliminate circa 200t of plastic by transitioning from plastic to paper wrap for packaging of its finished products.

WML’s advancements offer brand owners the opportunity to reduce their carbon footprint and avoid importing packaging from distant locations like Asia, Europe, Nth and Sth America

A recent study of the carbon footprint impact on shipping folding box board into the New Zealand market, showed that a tonne of box board shipped from Asia generated 420% more carbon emissions than a comparative box board tonne shipped from the mill in New Zealand. A similar tonne shipped from Chile created 450% more carbon emissions than a New Zealand tonne, whilst product shipped from the USA generated 650% more carbon emissions. Similar carbon footprint savings are available for Australian based food manufacturers and packagers by utilising Whakatane Mill supply.

Additionally, there are significant net working capital benefits due to the shorter production lead-times by sourcing from a local mill.

State-of-the-art equipment

The equipment for the Mill upgrade has been sourced from highly specialised manufacturers in Europe. The core equipment for the board machine, specifically the water removal/drying section, has been imported from Germany, while the fully automated paper wrap line originates from Finland, and the crucial heat recovery system has been acquired from Italy.

The Whakatane Mill has a unique place in the paperboard packaging industry as the only box-board manufacturer in Australasia. This local supply capability and intimate knowledge of the Australian and New Zealand market creates a significant local sustainable advantage for local food and beverage manufacturers.


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