A New Zealand charity on Friday defended a planned charity “zombie walk” to raise money for people with brain injuries, denying it was comparing brain damage victims to the undead.

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The event in the North Island town of Rotorua invites participants to dress up and “channel their inner zombie”, with promoters declaring “seeing zombies have been eating brains all these years, we figured it’s time we gave back”.

The highlight of the event, scheduled for later this month, is a mass zombie dance to the tune of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” in the town’s main street.

But the broadcaster TVNZ reported it had received complaints from people with brain injuries, saying they were “horrified” at being linked to shuffling corpses returned from the grave.

Brain Injury New Zealand president John Clough said no offence was intended and pointed out similar events had already been staged in Australia.

“Some people in New Zealand may make that link between zombies and people with brain injury, but it would be totally wrong because zombies are a fictional creation,” he told TVNZ.

The event’s organiser, Rotorua video shop owner Layla Robinson, said that she was a horror movie buff and thought it would be “a bit of fun” to combine pop culture with a good cause.

“We’re raising money for people with brain injury and we certainly mean no offence,” she said.

“I’ve met seven people personally with brain injuries who have come and registered (for the zombie walk) in my store.”

Robinson said the zombie walk was simply a novel way to raise funds that would appeal to people with “slightly different tastes” who may not be attracted to traditional charity events.

“Sorry if it offends some, but others are really excited about it, it’s something completely different and it’s certainly not a cake stall,” she said.