End of the line

The Tribune (NZ) - - FRONT PAGE - RICHARD MAYS

The fundrais­ing light at the end of the tun­nel has been turned off.

Last week, Ki­wiRail left the Woodville Lions Club’s iconic Track & Tun­nel fundrais­ing walk in the dark when it re­fused per­mis­sion for the an­nual gorge trek. Set down for April 10, the leisure walk cel­e­brated its 21st birth­day last year hav­ing raised over $300,000 for lo­cal char­i­ties, with size­able do­na­tions to Aro­hanui Hospice and Ron­ald McDon­ald House.

The an­nounce­ment that Ki­wiRail would no longer al­low the event to take place has stunned the club. Pres­i­dent Peter Bonser says that prepa­ra­tions were well un­der­way for the an­nual un­der­tak­ing, and the vol­un­teer or­gan­is­ers were ‘‘not very im­pressed’’ with its abrupt and un­ex­pected can­cel­la­tion.

Woodville Lions hope to con­tinue di­a­logue, how­ever the sig­nals from Ki­wiRail are all red.

Ki­wiRail says al­low­ing the walk to con­tinue would con­tra­dict its cam­paign to dis­cour­age peo­ple from walk­ing or pos­ing on rail­way lines.

A spokesper­son says af­ter a re­view of le­gal obli­ga­tions, there was an in­creased fo­cus on the safety of staff and the pub­lic on tracks, par­tic­u­larly in tun­nels and on bridges, a stand backed by a Ki­wiRail and Track­SAFE cam­paign.

The track had not been de­signed as a walk­way and posed sig­nif­i­cant safety risks.

Palmer­ston North MP Iain Lees-Gal­loway is urg­ing Ki­wiRail to re­con­sider.

‘‘Ki­wiRail are try­ing to do the right thing, in that they want peo­ple to be safe around rail­way tracks, but this re­ally is an over re­ac­tion.

‘‘I will do ev­ery­thing I can to get them to re­alise this is a safe event that has been run­ning for two decades with no in­ci­dent, and it would be an enor­mous loss to our com­mu­nity if it was to be can­celled for­ever.’’

More than 20,000 peo­ple have paid to walk from the lime quarry at the Bal­lance end of the gorge to Ash­hurst Do­main.

Num­bers were capped at 1500 for the nine kilo­me­tre walk across 15 bridges and through two long tun­nels, while of­fer­ing spec­tac­u­lar views of the gorge.

The only live line walk like it in New Zealand, Track & Tun­nel drew par­tic­i­pants from as far away as Auck­land, from neigh­bour­ing Hawke’s Bay and Welling­ton, and each year usu­ally sold out.

‘‘Ki­wiRail are try­ing to do the right thing, in that they want peo­ple to be safe around rail­way tracks, but this re­ally is an over re­ac­tion. ’’

Iain Lees-Gal­loway Palmer­ston North MP

PHOTO: WAR­WICK SMITH/FAIRFAX NZ

Ac­cess de­nied. Thou­sands of walk­ers have en­joyed the Track and Tun­nel ex­pe­ri­ence. Those who have it on their list of things to do are out of luck as Ki­wiRail puts the line off lim­its.

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