Horrifying footage shows children leaping in front of a train and narrowly avoiding collision in Ngaruawahia.
In the video provided to Newshub, school kids wearing uniforms and backpacks can be seen jumping in front of the cargo train as it rolls towards them at speed.
The last child only narrowly escapes being hit as they dart across the tracks at the last possible moment.
"Growing up in small towns I have always heard of kids playing 'chicken' with a car but seeing this just took my breath away," the person who took the video told Newshub.
"Parents need to at least speak to their children how dangerous this is and the effects it has on many people."
KiwiRail group general manager zero harm, Alastair Cumming, has condemned the incident.
"Trains are big, fast and extremely difficult to stop. Our message is always that staying off the tracks is the only safe thing to do," he told Newshub.
The video, also shared publicly on Facebook, garnered criticism from locals.
"Stupid little kids, they're gonna learn one day!" one user wrote.
"This could end so badly," said another.
"Think about what's going through the drivers head. Such a traumatic experience for the driver they need to be reported to the police. How many people have died and been hit by a train in Ngaruawahia?" another asked.
"That poor driver's heart would've been in his throat."
In 2018 an 11-year-old Ngaruawahia girl was struck and killed by a train as she and a group of friends played on the tracks.
As a train rushed towards her at 60km/h Moareen Rameka couldn't get off the tracks in time. Moareen's mother told Newshub in 2018 she'd on many occasions spoken to Moareen about train safety and repeatedly told her never to go on the rail bridge.
According to the NZ Herald, a nine-year-old boy also died after being hit by a southbound train at the Ngaruawahia rail bridge in 2002.
Cumming says for drivers, coming across people on the tracks is a "traumatic experience".
"Sadly, this happens all too often and for our drivers this is always a traumatic experience.
"KiwiRail has, and continues to work closely with the Waikato police, iwi and community groups to promote safe behaviour and stop people playing on the tracks or the bridge or believing they can outrun a train if they hear a horn."
It's been reported by the Herald in 2018 that train drivers are "terrified" to pass through the town due to children playing on the tracks.
Cumming says it's one of the "busiest parts" of KiwiRail's freight network.
"About 35 large KiwiRail freight trains travel through Ngaruawahia each day.
"Previous fatalities in the town have affected our staff and the local community profoundly," he told Newshub.
"We continue to work with the community to stop trespass and dangerous behaviour in Ngaruawahia."
Some Facebook users commented saying they had plans to notify the local school, while others shared experiences of their own, explaining how easy it is for someone's foot to get caught on the tracks.
A police spokesperson said the incident hadn't been reported but they "strongly discourage" any activity around train tracks.
"It is extremely important to take extra care when you are around trains, rail tracks and level crossings given the risk of serious injury or death."
They added that parents and caregivers should remind their children of the risks associated with playing games near train tracks.
"We encourage parents and caregivers to talk to their children about staying safe around trains and tracks."
NZTA offers a resource aimed at teaching primary-aged children how to stay safe around rail tracks which parents can find here.