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Press Release

Conservationists claim top timber wasted to refurbish railway

by: Trevor Paddenburg  From: PerthNow  January 13, 2013 1:49PM

Jarrah sleepers

TOP TIMBER: Jarrah railway sleepers in a Picton holding yard before being sent out to fix railway lines.

Picture: Kim Redman Source: PerthNow

Jarrah sleepers
ANGRY: Clint Clarke from Port Jarrah Furniture in Fremantle says using prime-grade Jarrah for railway sleeper is 'ridiculous' and 'totally wrong' .

Picture: Justin Benson-Cooper
Source: PerthNow

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 Jarrah.

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 timber''.

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 FPC.

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 to produce''.

"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 instead.

An Auditor-General's report into freight railways found concrete sleepers lasted 50 years compared with 20 for Jarrah.

Full story at PerthNow




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