A Woodville Lions event which has raised more than $300,000 in 21 years has been derailed because of new health and safety legislation.

The iconic Manawatu Gorge railway track and tunnel walk which attracts up to 1500 people from around New Zealand and overseas every year has been canned, leaving the man whose baby it was, shattered.

Woodville Lion's Club member Clive Boyden instigated the first Manawatu Gorge track and tunnel walk 22 years ago. Photo / Christine McKay
Woodville Lion's Club member Clive Boyden instigated the first Manawatu Gorge track and tunnel walk 22 years ago. Photo / Christine McKay

"It's gutting, very sad, a bit like a death in the family," Woodville Lion's Club member Clive Boyden told the Dannevirke News.

"In those 21 years more than 20,000 have walked the line from Woodville to Ashhurst and we've raised more than $300,000 for charity. In the latter years we've netted $30,000 from the walk, with $10,000 going to Arohanui Hospice in Palmerston North year-after-year and the other $20,000 to organisations around town."


Clare Randall, the chief executive of Arohanui Hospice, said the cancellation of the walk was "a huge shame."

"We've benefited in very practical ways from the walk and what the Woodville Lions have been able to contribute has been considerable. We are still one hospice which does our own laundry and the Lions Club helped with funding for a drier, as well as vehicles for our nurses to visit patients and when we did a complete refurbishment of the three-bedroom flat which is available free-of-charge for out of town families, Woodville Lions were one of the major contributors.

"We're really sad to see the track and tunnel walk go."

And over and above the fundraising efforts, Clare said the walk has raised the profile of the hospice.

"Those 1500 people walking the line all learnt about Arohanui Hospice," she said.

Mr Boyden and his wife Shirley instigated the track and tunnel walk along the eight kilometres of railway track from east to west through the Manawatu Gorge as a chance for people to walk a live railway line in New Zealand and to take in the spectacular scenery.

"The excitement of the tunnels, especially the long one with a bend in the middle has been a great drawcard for the walkers and with 13 bridges, it's been a unique experience.

"It's been a win-win, with the walkers getting really good value for their money and charities funds they wouldn't otherwise receive. "Now it's come to a shuddering halt," Mr Boyden said.

Neil Candy, of the Woodville Lions, said KiwiRail's refusal to allow the walk to go ahead was based on the new health and safety legislation.

"I'm pissed off. Everyone is covering their butts and the sad thing is that a big whack of money won't now go into vital community charities."

Mr Candy said the Lions have been working through the issues since January. "We've been told even KiwiRail's own employees must have specific training to go into the tunnels, but our focus on safety for this walk has been second to none.

"However, we've decided we may as well walk away with our heads held high."

Mr Boyden said he didn't blame KiwiRail, rather the Government's new health and safety legislation.

"There we were helping out organisations and they [the Government] put the skids under our efforts. It's ironic, the Government is shooting themselves in the foot.

"This is a hell of a turn around for our Lions Club. We've gone from organising a big fundraiser to zilch. As a club we've worked very hard to be successful and membership grows when we're busy and thriving."

In the 21 years the track and tunnel walk has been held it has never had to be postponed or cancelled and it's been a must do on many bucket lists, including Thai monk Phra Kittipong Darak.

In 2012 he joined 1500 others to walk the line for charity and said it had been something he'd wanted to accomplish for a long time.