Peter Clark, print industry pioneer, leader and servant, and president of PVCA, has passed away following a short illness, leaving the industry in mourning.
Clark, who hailed from Tasmania, had an illustrious 59-year career in print. Just before he passed he was inducted into the Print & Visual Communications Association’s Industry Honour Role, at the 39th National Print Awards, in recognition and appreciation for his outstanding achievements and industry contributions over the past half century.
He owned his first print business at the age of 30, managed some of the biggest businesses in the industry, founded one of the world's most advanced heatset operations, was an environmental champion long before it was de rigeur, and when he sold AIW to IVE six years ago he volunteered his considerable experience and worked tirelessly for the benefit of the entire industry.
The imminent merger of PVCA and The Real Media Collective is due in no small part to Clark's vision, efforts, and negotiating skills, as he sought a united voice for print. He had been president of PVCA for six months, and was a board member for two years before that.
He began his journey in print with a certificate in Fine Art form the Tasmanian School of Art, then at the age of 17, he commenced his indentures as a lithographic platemaker and printer at Cox Kay Print. By the age of 27 he was in management and, three years later, purchased his own small print and packaging business – the first of many entrepreneurial endeavours.
He then sold his initial business and moved to Melbourne to further his career in 1978. He progressed through senior roles with various large national and international organisations, both public and private. These spanned all aspects of the industry, from papermaking and manufacturing, to printing, packaging and publishing.
His environmental enthusiasm and endeavours began early. “When I commenced with Smorgon as general manager for Cargo Nupack Display Packaging, the company had two paper mills in Sunshine, where we pioneered the use of recycled paper to make corrugated liner board for packaging, which included most of the egg cartons in Australia, as well as other containers and inserts made from our 100 per cent recycled paper pulp,” he recalled in an interview shortly before his passing.
He then joined Visy at what he described as an "exciting time" for the company, establishing a pilot papermaking mill in NSW that featured 100 per cent recycled paper and board products, including corrugated liner boards.
That was a huge success and, within the next few years, Visy commissioned and installed four full-sized paper mills in Victoria and New South Wales. Today, Visy produces 90 per cent of their products made from 100 per cent recycled product, both within Australia and in the US.
Following his time with Visyboard, and its associated Visyflex prepress operation, Clark moved to News Limited’s Commercial Division, which later became PMP Group.
In 1993 he was appointed Group CEO of Manufacturing, Publishing & Distribution in New Zealand, overseeing PMP, Adams Print and Pacific Publishing.
From 1995, he took the reins as managing director for Keppel Printing and PMP at Moorebank NSW, then became CEO for PMP Progress Press and Progress National Letterbox Distribution. He led the group, which at its peak employed 550 full-time employees.
In 2000 Clark, together with a group of industry colleagues, co-founded AIW Printing. This privately-owned, highly automated, printing business commenced operations in 2001, and quickly became one of Australia’s largest and most well-respected printers, setting the pace with automation, innovation and environmental leadership. It was in fact universally recognised as one of the most advanced heatset plants in the world at the time, it achieved an annual turnover of $125m with only 100 employees across its manufacturing site in Springvale, Victoria.
AIW had satellite sales offices in Sydney, Brisbane and Tasmania, with a client list comprised of some of Australia’s leading retail names including Woolworths, Harvey Norman, Spotlight and Anaconda.
In 2008, under his direction, AIW installed one of the world’s largest heatset wide web presses, a Goss Sunday 4000, 80-page web press, with a 2,060mm web width. AIW worked closely in partnership with Norske Skog’s Boyer Tasmania Mill to help develop a lightweight paper suitable for the Australian commercial printing market. This led to AIW optimising its production to enable printing on paper as low as 42gsm.
It was just the start of a number of sustainability initiatives at AIW, including pioneering the use of grades of paper, and the installation of a half megalitre rainwater storage at the Victorian plant, which saw AIW become the first – and only – printer to use 100 per cent rainwater, collected from its six-acre roof. The trim and paper waste were recycled by Visy for use in its 100 per cent recycled paper production.
At its peak, AIW was the fourth largest heatset web printer in Australia, and today, along with former competitor, Franklin Press, is part of the successful IVE Group, having been acquired in 2016.
While his entrepreneurial spirit and business acumen is showcased by his own career and businesses, Clark also demonstrated his commitment to the whole print sector and its future, by contributing widely at an industry level over the years.
His own professional development, including achieving a Certificate of Applied Management, a qualification in the Governance of Registered Organisations, underpinned this contribution, and he is both a graduate and member of the Australian Institute of Superannuation Trustees and a member of the Australian Institute of Company Directors.
Most notably, Clark’s industry contributions have included stints as a director of the Printing Industries Association of Australia (Printing Industries), which is now the PVCA, as a board member for PrintEx 19, and as chair and director for Graphic Innovators Australasia.
More recently, Clark served nearly three years as a director and trustee of Media Super, where he was a member of its Investment Committee, sat on the board of PacPrint 2022 for nearly two years in the lead up to this year’s event, and in January this year, was elected president of the PVCA.
As important as all of the above was Clark’s passion, knowledge and understanding of the industry, which provided such a vibrant backdrop to his life and career.
He was widely respected and admired, not only for his achievements and experience, but for his strategic mind, calm approach and sense of reason, and for his measured approach, which underpinned the success of all his projects.
As for Clark himself, he credited the printing industry with some of his life’s greatest opportunities, saying it had been an honour to be able to give back to the industry which has given him so much.
Speaking just before he passed he said, “I’ve had a fantastic time in the industry, so it’s been nice to be able to contribute", and telling everyone who knew him, “Ink really is the blood that flows in my veins.”
Vale Peter Clark.
Taken from Print 21