New Plymouth authorities will do everything in their power to ensure the death of a pedestrian at a rail crossing will never be repeated, says the council's chief executive.
New Plymouth man Matthew Meijer was killed when he was hit by a train at a crossing near Weymouth St at 1pm last Monday.
Police acting area commander Darin Heanga said it did not appear the 27-year-old saw the train approaching.
"He's walked through the chicane across the tracks. The train has been sounding its warning device but it doesn't appear the victim has heard this and he's carried on into the path of the train and been hit."
It appeared the victim was wearing headphones at the time of the incident, Mr Heanga said.
"When we've completed the scene investigation, we located a set of earphones on the railway line, a cover to what appears to be a cellphone and later when the train was being examined a cellphone was located."
Barbara McKerrow said her staff will be walking the railway line with engineers from KiwiRail this week to identify if any safety improvements can be made.
Mr Meijer's death is the second fatality involving a train on the popular walkway, which attracts up to 350,000 visitors a year at its busiest point.
In 2004, cyclist Mark Clifford Jones died when he was hit at a crossing only about 200m from where Mr Meijer died.
Ms McKerrow said the pedestrian and cycle crossings were part of council infrastructure and it had an obligation to make them as safe as possible.
"One death is one far too many and two is unacceptable. I would see that it is a council responsibility ultimately to make sure we enable a safe passage across the railway for our community using our walkway."
Ms McKerrow said there were six pedestrian/cycle crossings on the walkway and four road crossings, and all of their designs had been approved by KiwiRail.
It was too early to say what safety improvements, if any, could be made to the crossings, she said.
"It could range from simply enhancing visibility in the way we manage vegetation to maybe a system that involves flashing lights.
"Making sure that the mazes that force people to zig-zag before they cross the railway line are designed to ensure that people are forced to absolutely slow down and, for example, that in the case of cyclists they have to get off their bikes."
KiwiRail's group general manager asset management, David Gordon, said there were 2000 uncontrolled crossings around New Zealand, but those on the coastal walkway had not been identified as being of particular concern.
In the last two years there had been no reports of collisions or near misses in the area until Mr Meijer's death, Mr Gordon said.
However, having railway lines in the vicinity of a public walkway did present challenges.
"The boardwalk there can only get busier, we've got the normal things of signs, mazes and all the rest of that but the challenge is always going to be at the time it comes, and unfortunately you're never going to really know when that will be, what were the people thinking at the time."
KiwiRail was limited in what it could do to improve safety, he said.
"There's some things we can do and we are meeting with New Plymouth District Council to see what the next step is. Are there more things we can do in terms of infrastructure, are there more things we can do in terms of warning signs - those types of things."
Members of the public on the walkway over the holidays were generally happy with the safety measures in place.
Jeremy Bayliss was visiting from Napier and thought the walkway was fantastic.
"We've just gone over the crossing twice and I don't think there's any issue with it. I think it's great."
A cyclist, Melanie, also thought the crossings were safe. "If you look there it's quite hard to get through especially on a bike and even with headphones on you know you're coming up to a rail crossing so you look both ways."
Natasha Turner, however, was not entirely convinced.
"It's okay, but we were having to monitor our children quite closely. I guess it could be safer, probably more under and overpasses might be safer."
Any significant changes to the crossings were unlikely to happen soon, and in the meantime both the council and KiwiRail were advising walkway users to be vigilant and to use the crossings with care.
Mr Meijer's death has been referred to the coroner.