By Chris Turver
Former Regional Councillor
Kapiti has within its grasp the opportunity to harness the extraordinary environmental assets we have into an attractive package for national and international visitors.
Instead the Department of Conservation, the manager of Kapiti Island, has priced the most iconic attraction out of everyday reach.
The latest report of falling visitor numbers is hardly surprising after a price hike for a family of four – without adding any value to the package – from $190 to $300 and that shows just how easy it is to turn people off.
Imagine how a bit of imagination could have turned that around to open the door for showcasing Kapiti’s other environmental assets where little effort has been put in to promoting them outside the district.
Time to take stock
It’s time to take stock on just what we’ve got on our doorstep and put Kapiti on the map with a package that becomes a “must do” for visitors from around New Zealand and overseas.
Kapiti is blessed with two significant rivers, but while the locals admire what’s being done to substantially improve the environments they flow through, little is done to promote their scenic and ecological value outside the district.
Hard work over 15 years by volunteers in the Friends of the Waikanae and Friends of the Otaki River groups is transforming the two rivers with replanting that is bringing back the native birds and creating attractive riverbank walkways.
With funding support from Greater Wellington Regional Council and Kapiti Coast District Council the man-made improvements have brought life and people back to the rivers.
The DoC Scenic Reserve at the mouth of the Waikanae river and the extensive lagoons at the mouth of the Otaki river are havens for wildlife and rich in history from Maori occupation to European settlement.
Nga Manu Nature Reserve, Queen Elizabeth Regional Park, and various walkways in the hills and bush reserves from Paekakariki to Otaki offer visitors a chance to see natural assets – many with spectacular views – which aren’t available to big city folk.
DoC, GWRC and KCDC should work together
So isn’t it time that DoC, the Greater Wellington Regional Council, and Kapiti Coast District Council put their heads together with commercial operators to package these assets as drawcards for tourists and nature lovers from around the world.
The growing cruise liner trade alone is bringing thousands of passengers each year to Wellington who are looking for destinations which lift the spirit, recharge the batteries, and stretch their legs.
Kapiti’s business community could show its creativity – and earn some money – from providing services which add value to the visitor experience including food and wine tasting, and helicopter rides and boat trips,
Volunteer organisations could earn income from providing guiding and interpretative services, and organising cycling, kayaking, and horse-riding trips.
Turning Kapiti into an environmental showcase attracting international attention can be done. It just needs a push.