• $80m investment in folding boxboard: Whakatane Mill.
    $80m investment in folding boxboard: Whakatane Mill.
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An investment of $80m in the Whakatane Mill will boost folding board production by 66,000 tonnes a year to 230,000 tonnes, and will pave the way for a further increase of 100,000 tonnes a year capacity.

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$80m investment in folding boxboard: Whakatane Mill

Whakatane is the only board mill in the Australasia region; its products are distributed here by Ball & Doggett under the Formakote brand.

The company says the investment in its board line will also deliver higher quality board, including a smoother, more consistent surface, improved white point and yield advantage. The mill is now is calling on local companies to buy local, rather than sourcing board form China, Korea, Finland or Chile.

It says there will be a lower environmental impact during the production process, with the upgraded line using less raw material, operating with 30 per cent improved energy efficiency, and using 30 per cent less gas, and less water from the local river.

It will also eliminate plastic consumption, by transitioning from plastic to paper wrap for packaging its finished products.

The brands distributed from the mill include Formakote White, Formakote Natura, Formakote Spectra, Formakote Sherpa, and Formakote Solaire

Ball & Doggett is the exclusive local distributor of the Formakote range across Australia. The Whakatane Mill is the closest folding boxboard manufacturer to Australian shores.

Leigh Hooper, general manager, Labels & Packaging at Ball & Doggett, said, “This is a significant investment by the ownership of the Whakatane Mill. It will future-proof the mill, and ensure that it is around for many years to come. I would like to congratulate and applaud Dermot Smurfit, Ian Halliday, Ross George, Ron Hooper and his team for their commitment to this project.

Mill opening: Ball & Doggett's Leigh Hooper and Brad Partington

“Having recently been at the mill for the launch of the upgrade, I had a strong sense for how much this investment means to the local community, and the excitement surrounding future growth plans.

“As exclusive distributors of the Formakote range across Australia, it gives us great confidence that the mill can now provide additional capacity, an improved quality of folding boxboard material, and have significantly improved their overall environmental impact. We encourage the local market to embrace this upgrade investment, and support local.”

The equipment for the upgrade has been sourced from 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.

Fifty contracting companies from across the Bay of Plenty have been involved in the upgrade, with four hundred contractors on site to install approximately 45 kilometres of cable and 5.5 kilometres of piping.

The Whakatane Mill was saved from closure three years ago by Irish packaging tycoon Dermot Smurfit, who led an investor consortium that acquired the Mill, keeping it operating, and saving 210 jobs.

 At the time they bought the mill the new owners said they will pivot away from liquid packaging board, and concentrate instead on high-quality folding box board, carrier board and food service board, which were all already manufactured at the mill.

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