A Marlborough forester says the sooner homegrown hardwood is produced in commercial quantities the better.
It was revealed last week that 7000 sleepers imported by KiwiRail from Peru have failed.
Paul Millen is the project manager for the New Zealand Dryland Forests Initiative, which is selecting and breeding eucalyptus species.
He says the potential is enormous, with some eucalyptus already tested showing the same growth rates as pinus radiata.
Mr Millen says it's time New Zealand started producing its own sustainable hardwood resource. He says it would help solve environmental problems and make the rail infrastructure more sustainable, as well as providing timber for the lines industry.
Mr Millen says every cross-arm on every power pole in New Zealand has previously been Australian hardwood. He says the Australians have locked up the resource, there isn't a lot available and it has become a lot more expensive.
He says his organisation has applied for $3.8 million in government funding to further its research and aims to plant 120,000 hectares of eucalyptus by 2050.