Kapiti has taken some pride in being billed as a clean technology innovator and the move to set up a developmental centre in Otaki was widely supported.
Now the future for purely clean technology development looks uncertain.
An independent Clean Technology Trust set up in July last year has been effectively sacked, apparently because it was spending too much on administration and not enough on signing up new cleantech business ventures.
The KCDC, which a year ago felt there was sufficient promise to bankroll the Trust to the tune of $1.5 million over nine years to speed up development, now says it’s ‘significantly underwhelmed’ and announced it has taken over.
The solution, it says, will be to maintain its commitment of economic development in Otaki by opening the doors at the Clean Technology Park in Riverbank Road to other ‘new and innovative’ business opportunities
The reality is that it has been tough to attract businesses which want to specialise in growing and commercialising clean technologies by basing themselves in a supportive environment at the Park.
Extensive work has been put in over a five-year build-up by the regional development agency Grow Wellington. Riverbank Estates invested considerably in getting the project off the ground; and the KCDC provided strong support all the way.
‘The perfect start-up site’
Otaki, because of its comparatively low development costs and available workforce, was seen as the perfect start-up site, coupled with easy access either way to the scientific communities in Wellington and Palmerston North.
The downside has always been that venture capital – particularly during economic downturns – prefers to support proven business formulas.
The sort of questions now raised include:
— Will clean technology innovation get as much priority or does that dream now give way to hard-headed business practicality
— When the decision was taken to invest $1.5 million specifically into clean technology what steps were taken to ensure there was a real future
— What controls were put in place to ensure the Trust was spending its money appropriately
It was all very well for the announcement to be made about being “underwhelmed” but none of these questions were addressed and it would be good to think that with effective planning Kapiti could still lead the way in clean technology.
It matters for world survival.