WA'S finest Jarrah trees are being cut down and sold for railway
sleepers by the State Government's logging agency despite a policy
banning the practice, according to insiders.
Jarrah in WA is harvested by
the Government-run Forest Products Commission, which rates logs as
first, second or third-grade.
Only lower-quality logs are allowed to be used for railway sleepers,
while higher-grade Jarrah must be ``value-added'' and used for
high-quality products such as furniture or floorboards.
But big swaths of WA's freight rail lines are being re-sleepered,
fuelling a big rise in demand.
To meet the orders, the FPC stands accused of downgrading top-quality
It logged more than 170,000 tonnes of Jarrah in the past financial year
and the demand for third-grade logs used to make the sleepers was double
the previous year at 20,000 tonnes.
Al Corbet, former owner of
the Australian Craftwood Timbers mill near Manjimup, claimed fine Jarrah
was being used for sleepers in a ``rampant waste of WA's finest
Other mill workers in the South-West also said the FPC appeared to be
supplying top-grade Jarrah for sleepers.
WA Forest Alliance spokeswoman Jess Beckerling said she, too, had
testimony from those working in the industry of fine Jarrah being turned
into sleepers a practice ``straight out of the Dark Ages''.
"We're talking 200-year-old logs, prime grade something you'd make a
beautiful dining room table with,'' Mr. Corbet said. ``Most Third World
countries have a better harvesting regime than WA. It's appalling.''
Forestry Minister Terry Redman said the claims were a matter for the
A spokesman for the agency said as much profit as possible was derived
from harvested timber. He said timber sleepers were eco-friendly because
they stored carbon, while concrete ``requires large quantities of energy
"Accusations that logs are deliberately downgraded for any reason are
false,'' he said. ``Those making such claims should be asked to provide
evidence. It is too easy to make such statements which are aimed at
damaging the integrity of FPC's staff.''
Fremantle-based Port Jarrah Furniture owner Clint Clarke said using fine
Jarrah for sleepers was ``wrong'', while South-West Environment Centre
convenor Mark Sheehan said concrete or plantation timber should be used
An Auditor-General's report into freight railways found concrete
sleepers lasted 50 years compared with 20 for Jarrah.