Whakatane Mill (WML), which was on the brink of closure in early 2021, has announced it has secured a substantial private investment of over NZD70m from its shareholders for significant upgrade.

This investment marks the most significant capital expenditure for WML since 2004. The funds will facilitate a major upgrade, elevating WML to industry-leading standards.  

The upgrade will deliver an additional 50,000 tonnes of premium folding box boards, increasing WML’s production from 150,000 to 200,000 tonnes. 

WML’s advancements will offer main brand owners such as DB Breweries, McDonalds, and Griffins the chance to reduce their carbon footprint and avoid importing packaging. 

Customers will enjoy the advantages of higher quality board, while the production process will be more environmentally friendly, utilising less raw materials and operating with improved energy efficiency. 

Per tonne of board, the energy efficiency will be approximately 30 per cent better, gas consumption will be reduced by more than 30 per cent and WML’s water consumption from the local river will also see a significant decrease. 

Additionally, WML will eliminate plastic consumption by transitioning from plastic to paper wrap for its packaging with the heat recovery system contribute significantly to the company’s ESG profile. 

Construction commenced at the end of June and will continue until mid-late August with full production expected to be achieved by November 2023. 

Whakatane Mill Limited executive chairman Ian Halliday

The equipment for the 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. 

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

Whakatane Mill Limited executive chairman Ian Halliday expressed his pride in this achievement, “As the largest private employer in Whakatane, with an 80-year history of exporting, this moment is a significant step towards a bright, positive, and sustainable future for WML.”

The upgrade is paving the way for further production expansion up to 300,000 tonnes of premium folding box board in the future.

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