KiwiRail slated over infected sleepers

Heads should roll at KiwiRail after the state-owned company imported wooden sleepers infested with fungi not found in New Zealand, minority party New Zealand First says.

KiwiRail imported 100,000 sleepers which weren't up to hardwood standard and laid 7000 of them, the NZ parliament was told last week.

Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee said the 7000 had "some degree of decay" and were being replaced.

KiwiRail chief executive Jim Quinn said tests showed two of the fungi types on the sleepers were new to New Zealand, TVNZ reported.

They posed no danger to people and the Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) was investigating whether they posed any bio-security risk, he said.

"However, we are now taking extra steps as recommended by MPI to sanitise and contain the sleepers we are systematically removing from the network."

NZ First Transport spokesman Brendan Horan today said the damage the two new fungi could inflict on the environment could be dramatic.

"Either KiwiRail imported untreated wooden sleepers, or the treatment process was useless.

"KiwiRail management must now do the right thing and make those responsible for this blunder pay with their jobs," he said.

The NZ railway network has six million sleepers.

A possible reason

There's probably a lot of sub-standard tropical rainforest timber available today, put onto the market by South East Asian-based timber merchants for whom clearing the rainforest for palm oil plantations is a greater consideration than the overseas sale of quality 'product'.


What happened to the Kiwi firm that was making sleepers from recycled plastic bottles & silage wrap? Even if the initial cost is more, surely their longevity would make them a winner in the long run. Rot proof too!

Not so permanent way

That is a lot of work for railways gangers.

KiwiRail sleepers

I am having difficulty comprehending why New Zealand is incapable of producing the wood required to manufacture railway sleepers. Correct me if I'm wrong but back in the 1950's and 60's weren't huge tracts of forested land designated for the purpose of harvesting trees as they matured and subjected to ongoing re-forestation?

For the last 33 years I have lived in overseas countries where, if a product is able to be manufactured locally, that product is either a prohibited import or subject to high import duties. Upon my return, I was devasted to discover that this country is full of unemployed people stripped of their livelihood because the Government allows the importation of substandard, cheap and nasty commodities. When is New Zealand going to wake up?

With regard to the comment that "Either KiwiRail imported untreated wooden sleepers or the treatment process was useless". Neither scenario is acceptable in a country that has strict importation and fumigation regulations and espouses "clean & green". Perhaps an investigation into the policies of MAF is called for.

In the meantime, back to unemployment, if anyone's looking for an experienced computer literate office person, please give me a call.


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