Late afternoon on a Thursday in Ngāruawāhia, kids across town can be found playing rugby, netball and squash.

It's one way to keep them fit and healthy, and away from the nearby rail bridge. Twice in living memory local children have been killed by passing trains - a 9-year-old boy in 2002 and 11-year-old Moareen Rameka in March.

"It took a death for the whole town to wake up and realise you shouldn't do that," resident Dubx Mahara said.

For generations, thrill seekers have played cat and mouse with the trains crossing the bridge.


"I was born and raised here, I used to jump off it nine-to-five, like Weet-Bix bro," Mahara said.

Spurred by the most recent death, the Ngāruawāhia community is looking at ways to keep children off the bridge.

Some locals insist there's plenty of other things for rangatahi to do in Ngāruawāhia.

"People say it's boring, but yeah, there heaps of stuff," Bosston Ngataki, 13, said.

"You can climb the Hakarimata mountain, you can do that for fitness. If you're bored you can just chill with the mates, go for a feed or go for a lazy swim, and go to school," he said.

"You can go for a swim at the river you can go down to the bowl, play on your bike at the skatepark," agreed Anayda Jones-Brown, 15. "We have events at the marae, at the Koroneihana, yeah N-G-A, is not that boring."

Sporting options include kick-boxing and dance plus there's a new fitness trail by the river.

In the warmer months, waka ama is popular; more than 100 youth are involved.


"It's packed, there's children for Africa," chairman of Tūrangawaewae Waka Sports, Mike Rogerson said.

"We've got all our waka, all seven out on the awa, paddling and just rotating the whole time right through to dark - from three until nine over summer," Rogerson said.

"I think one of the positives of our kids paddling is they learn how to respect the river," parent and teacher Pura Hope said.

"We actually encourage them to jump off the barge back there and we don't discourage them from doing activities, whatever it is, in the river.

"But we teach them how to respect the river and be safe in the river while we do it rather than tell them 'don't go jump off the bridge, don't go do this' and we teach them how to be safe," she said.

At the Community House, local youth group Embrace the Future was planning events and activities for young people including a 72-hour film festival later this year.

"Essentially, we're doing the film festival to get rangatahi together in Ngāruawāhia, and pretty much be creative beings and film all the beauty in Ngāruawāhia in the way they see it," youth leader Salem Waters said.

Sadly, these many options aren't enough to stop kids risking their lives on the railway bridge so the community board is reviewing suggestions from a public meeting called after the most recent death.

Among the proposals was a new platform for tamariki to jump off next to the bridge, which gets the thumbs up from young Bosston.

"Yeah, just like a platform that we don't get told to get off, like an actual platform like the size of that bridge, somewhere safe for the kids," he said.

The suggestions from the meeting will be collated and released on May 15 before a decision is made on what steps would be taken to keep rangatahi safe.

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