Sunday, January 29, 2017

Paper man's national honour

Steve Balmforth.
RECENTLY-RETIRED Norske Skog executive Steve Balmforth has been awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia for service to the environment, including the development of the country's first newsprint de-inking and recycling plant.

Mr Balmforth, who worked for Norske Skog for nearly 49 years, is originally from the Derwent Valley and attended New Norfolk High School before going to work at the Boyer mill in January 1968. Now living in Victoria, he was the company's first public relations officer.

He moved to Albury in 1992 as part of the Australian Newsprint Mills Development Team to help gain approval for the nation's first newsprint de-inking and recycling plant. This role included many community meetings from Albury to Adelaide and Canberra as well.

"The Environmental Impact Study as part of the approval process was a lengthy and the team involved spent many hours on ensuring all parties' concerns were addressed," Mr Balmforth said today. "The operation is now viewed as one of the best in the world and recycles over 140,000 tonnes of recycled paper each year that had the potential to be sent to landfill," he said.

When the plant was being built, Mr Balmfort moved into a role with Kerbside Papers, the joint venture company set up by ANM and Tasman Pulp and Paper in New Zealand. Based in Melbourne, one of Mr Balmforth's roles was to set up the much-needed council collections to ensure old newspapers were collected and made available to the mill in Albury.

"As this was a new area, the work that needed to be done was wide-ranging and the education aspect was one that I focussed on, with involvement with many community and educational departments to promote the benefits of recycling and sustainability," Mr Balmforth said. "The groundwork that was carried out in this period is now taken for granted, however it was a tough time to change mindsets of the general public as well as the government bureaucracy," he said.

Despite retiring from Norske Skog in November 2016 after almost 49 years of service, Mr Balmforth is doing some consultancy work in the paper industry and has strong links with the Derwent Valley. "Although not having lived in Tasmania for over 25 years, I maintain regular contact with many in the Valley and take an active interest in the what's happening," he said. In 2013 he published the book Glenleith Memories and Stories, about the hop-growing property at Plenty that was home to many families.

Mr Balmforth's extensive community activities before leaving New Norfolk included membership of the Derwent Valley Tourist Council; board member of the New Norfolk Enterprise Centre; treasurer and committee member of the New Norfolk Sports Centre; founding member and secretary of the New Norfolk Men's Basketball Association; secretary/treasurer of the ANM Aquatic Club; chairman of the New Norfolk Scout and Guide Hall Management Committee; being part of the group that set up and ran the first Derwent Valley Hop Festival; and even master of ceremonies of the Carols by Candlelight.

"I feel very humbled but very honoured with the award," Mr Balmforth said. It is expected that the medal will be presented at Government House in Melbourne in the near future.

Congratulations Steve.

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