Cr Elliott Says Slow Down On Gateway To Kapiti Island

The proposed Kapiti Island Gateway could be operational by next summer, but KCDC Districtwide Councillor Jackie Elliott wants to put the brakes on because of Covid-19.

Cr Elliott, a former eco-tourism guide on Kapiti Island, says the recent re-emergence of Covid-19 in New Zealand has signalled a new-normal for the face of our on-shore tourism.

And, she says, it has given us our first real look at how living long-term with Covid-19 restrictions looks for tourism.

NZ top of the list 

Cr Elliott says: “Over the previous three months, New Zealand’s response to Covid-19 has seen our country rise to the top of the list of desirable destinations for international travellers.

“(But) while New Zealand will remain popular, we have to listen to industry experts like the Auckland Airport Company who say it will be three years before they expect any return to normal international passenger numbers.

Cr Jackie Elliott

“Our domestic tourism market has, in that three months, increased across the country and was also looking good as a sound driver for the Gateway project to continue as scheduled pending the ‘go’ decision by council.

The difficult prospect for tourism

However the new, real prospect of different regions in the country going in and out of different Covid response levels, will put the wobbles on that momentum as Kiwis become wary about committing and pre-paying for travel accomodation and pre-booking visitor experiences and day trips.

Cr Elliott adds that while she is aware of the continuing need for a fit-for -purpose bio-security facility and visitor hub, it is fortunate the Kapiti Island Gateway project is in the KCDC Long Term Plan over the next three years and timing can easily be adjusted.

‘Move it to 3rd year of the Plan

“Despite having been granted $2M Government funding towards it  as a shovel-ready project, I will look at moving it out to the third year of the Plan as council prioritises the response to Covid-19 and we have a clearer picture of the new normal for tourism in New Zealand,” says Cr Elliott.

Kapiti Island visits are all pre-booked. You cant just turn up and get on a boat like you would to say Waiheke Island. Therefore unless that changes, a showcase on the beach at Paraparaumu is never going to act the drawcard for travel to the Island.

Further if its needed to promote Kapiti Island tours why aren’t the tour providers putting in money towards the facility given they will be the benefactors? I understand the Tour operators are not even interested in committing to rent space in the venture if it is constructed so clearly the Tour Operators see no necessity for a Kapiti Gateway.

So my view is the project is not viable under any circumstances, for foreign tourists, or for locals.

Im very much in favour of finding ways to bring more visitors both national and international to Kapiti. Im also very much in favour of shovel ready projects to create local jobs in these dire times. But this is not the project.

Im pleased Cr Elliot recognises that Covid is a current issue. However the KCDC focus should have been on ensuring rates did not rise at all in these difficult times. Especially with the huge debt KCDC must pay down. Even considering a Kapiti gateway at this time is totally inappropriate.

Jackie, you seem to be saying you favour the Gateway Project going ahead in three years time dependent on the state of international tourism thus rejecting the PGF funding, thus leaving the ratepayers to meet the total cost, (up to $5M) rather than 50% of the cost. This seems a perverse argument. The PGF funding is dependent upon the project going ahead now it was deemed shovel ready. If it doesn’t go ahead in the timescale (six months) set by PGF it surely losses any support from the PGF. (There’s still the matter of the $250K or so spent to date to get the project to the current state funded presumably from ratepayers, resulting in rates increases.

Maybe the more trenchant question to ask is , should we be basing our economy so heavily on international tourism, especially when it creates low paying seasonal jobs and is so erratic.

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