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No. 1 (Winter 1952)
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Left: Kelly Keepa and Garry Gear feeding the grinder with 3ft. pinus logs. Grinders crushing the logs into pulp are driven by 1200 H.P. motors. Right: Two cadets. Training at the Mill consist of several years in all departments, during which period evening classes are also available. These boys are in the laboratory for a six months period.


Some Twenty-five years ago, people began to become aware of the great possibilities of using New Zealand grown forests for paper production. By then, many people were aware of the amazing rapidity of growth of certain timbers in New Zealand soils, especially pinus. It would be cheaper to grow the type of young pine tree used for paper production in New Zealand than in almost any other country, because of the short period of growth of the trees. The Government had some experiments carried out in the United States in 1928. A few years after that an Australian Company, named ‘Timberlands Woodpulp Ltd.’, arranged for some more detailed investigations. It was proved experimentally that the New Zealand woods used in the experiments (pinus insignia, rimu and tawa) were suitable for the manufacture of Kraft wrappings, board, newsprint, writings and high-grade white papers. On the basis of these experiments the Whakatane Paper Mills Ltd. was founded in 1934 with a capital of over £2.5 million.

So far, these paper mills have made a significant contribution to the problem of finding work for Maoris in their home districts. As the first of several mills that are planned in the Bay of Plenty area, it has pointed the way, not only to the employment of local people, but also to training them in a highly skilled trade.

The Whakatane Board Mill

The mill started operations in July, 1939, a few weeks before the beginning of the war. By this time seedlings planted out in the company's 46,000-acre plantations in 1928 were ready for manufacturing processes. During the war the plant produced an average of over 11,000 tons of cardboard per annum, which was in excess of New Zealand's pre-war consumption. At present production stands somewhere around 15,000 tons per annum.

The rather specialized machinery used is Swedish. The exact processes through which the pulp passes on its way to the cardboard stage are rather complicated to describe, but roughly the treatment is as follows. Cardboard consists of three main pulp constituents, namely the pulp ground from the freshly cut trees, imported chemical pulp and waste paper. A common furnish for a good strong cardboard used extensively today is approximately 30% waste paper, 50% ground wood, and 20% imported chemical pulp. In addition the production of card-

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Bill Walker, foreman of the beater room, has Pakehas as well as Maoris working for him. The chemicals and other constituents are mixed together. The mixture determines the quality of the board.

board requires an enormous water supply. The Whakatane mills take 3,000,000 gallons daily from the Whakatane River.

The pine trees are cut into 3 feet bolts, debarked and then fed into the grinders. These machines consist essentially of a large revolving carborundum stone against which the logs are forced under pressure in the presence of a stream of water. As the stone grinds the pulp from the log the stream of water carries it away. Exceptionally big motors, 1200 h.p. each, are required to drive each grinder. The groundwood pulp, which now has the appearance of porridge, is subsequently passed through screens and refiners prior to being pumped to the beater department.

Here the mixture is made which decides the quality and properties of the board. Apart from the main constituents described above, various chemicals are introduced: rosin and alum for sizing and to prevent the penetration of moisture, starch for hardening and stiffening, clay for loading, wax emulsions for water proofing, and dye for colouring. After further refinement the mixture passes to the board machine. The fibres in the wood are now entirely disentangled. In the board machine the fibres are piled together, pressed and dried to form the final sheet.

Maoris Take Part in Production

The mill employs 425 workers of whom 110 are Maoris. An executive officer at the mill, in conversation with Te Ao Hou correspondent, expressed the opinion that he considered his Maori workers to be of the same quality as the Pakeha workers. He made another statement which may interest those considering the setting up of industries in the smaller Maori centres. He said that the Maori worker at the Whakatane mills, who generally has his ancestral home in the district, does not tend to move around quite as much as the Pakeha worker.

Various of the Maori workers have skilled and responsible jobs, some have become foremen. One Maori boy has been apprenticed to the mill's painting shop. The really important jobs in this industry, however, are filled by people who are paper and board experts. The mill is training cadets to be such experts. Of these cadets, two at present are Maoris and the mill is interested in getting more, as long as their school record is a good one.

Cadets are placed in the sales department, to be trained in the selling work on which the mill ultimately depends, the programming of production, and the purchasing of raw materials. After a year they go to the laboratory where they are taught the routine

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controls made at various stages of production, the checks of the raw materials coming in, and so forth. Cadets then are sent to the various departments of the factory to learn how the factory is run. The total course lasts five years. At present there is also a voluntary effort on the part of some of the technical officers who take classes at night and teach those cadets who are interested in the scientific and theoretical background of paper-making. The boys are taken to a sufficiently high standard to sit the examination of the London Paper Guild and gain a diploma valid over the whole of the British world.

It is clear that in the not so distant future New Zealand may well produce the great bulk of her requirements not only in cardboard but also in other classes of paper. The total requirements for all kinds of paper and board in New Zealand are 100,000 tons annually; a good part of this could be produced by the projects now contemplated in the

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Packets of chemical pulp being picked up by a mobile crane. On the ground George Stewart and Tuka Tahiwi.

Bay of Plenty area. It is important for the Maori people to have their own skilled men and experts in this new industry right from the beginning and take an active part in the development of these products from their ancestral soil.