C.B. Ruthe writes that true leadership demands honesty — and the Kapiti Mayor and Councillors should be in the forefront of telling residents the truth about the Gateway project for Paraparaumu Beach.
He says Guru has slandered those asking questions as naysayers, and defectors from his cause.
Mr Ruthe, publicity officer for the Kapiti Improvement Society, writes: “The issue is extremely important because ratepayers are likely to be left with a massive economic albatross around their collective necks.”
What do Guru and his supporters say?
— The Gateway, or Kaj as we have termed it, will guarantee sailings 365 days a year.
(Editor’s note: Kaj came from Taj. Early on the Gateway was being fondly
referred to as the ‘Taj Mahal of Kapiti’)
— The Kaj will stop bad weather that currently limits sailings.
— Visitor numbers will double next year, and grow 400% by 2030.
— These numbers are guaranteed to soar.
— Price increases do not matter – “visitors will be happy to pay 20% more go through a transit lounge.
— Biosecurity will improve on 100%.
— KCDC can afford up to $900,000 per annum in subsidies.
— The growth figures will be achieved without more boats.
— Covid will mean more visitors
— The growth will occur without the need for any expenditure on advertising.
— With the Kaj, 50% of visitors will spontaneously take a trip –currently less than 1% are spontaneous visitors.
— Spontaneous visitors will not need to be prepared with adequate clothing, food or water as the boat operators will have to transport them on the visitors demand in order to achieve 58,400.
— Safety requirements will all be waived to enable spontaneous bookings.
Trying to find where the truth lies
This article examines the issues and tries to find where the truth lies.
All the material comes from KCDC and the CEO.
(Note: The latest letter from DoC, with correct vistor figures, is given at the bottom of this article)
Sailings 365 days a year
They say that if the Gateway is built, boats will be able to sail 365 days a year. At the moment they sail between 150 and 160 days.
They told the Progressive Growth Fund (PGF) “Visitation to Kāpiti Island is currently at only 25% of annual capacity. There is significant opportunity to grow this, without impacting the unique environment by operating 365 days a year.”
They have been asked to produce the science and facts that proves there can be sailings 365 days a year.
‘Produce the evidence‘
They have refused to produce their evidence. The Ombudsman has now asked to get disclosure of the science behind 365 days a year sailings, guaranteed.
Undoubtedly KCDC has the evidence, otherwise it would not have said the project was only economically sustainable if there are 365 sailings a year.
He (the Ombudsman) has been asked to obtain from KCDC the research that proves that a building in a park will stop all winds and storms, and cold in winter.
That despite the absence of wharves – boats have to launch and land on beaches making operations particularly vulnerable to weather- 365 a year sailings are guaranteed. That is what the PGF was told.
“The facility will provide a “Biosecurity Pod”, which will play a vital role in strengthening biosecurity measures against current and future animal and plant pest threats”.
How can you improve on 35 years of no biosecurity breaches, a 100% success? The Mayor says building the Gateway will better 100%. Really?
Visitor numbers are guaranteed to soar?
They told the PGF that in 5 years 30,000 will be going to Kapiti Island — over a 100% increase over last year’s 14,000.
In another 5 years there will be 58,400 visitors – a 300% increase. KCDC was challenged to prove these figures were realistic. They refused. Instead they denied ever using these figures.
The CEO in a letter dated 19 August said: “Council has is not aware of the forecasts referred to and has not used any assumptions of future visitor numbers at or near the stated levels when developing its proposal.”
According to Guru and his supporters the following was never known and never filed with the PGF:
“Current and forecast Kāpiti (Island) Visitor Spending
Economic impact scenarios show by 2030 with 45,000 visitors total annual revenue could be up to $16.26 million and employment up to 72 persons.” (p2 of the Application).
We are expected to believe that this small building will create 72 jobs. The Mayor and Councillor Buswell say this is the truth. Really?
The Bevin Report was part of the application to PGF. Yet, according to the CEO “Council has not is not aware of the forecasts”. This information was totally unknown to him .
The Bevin Report. Local Economic Impacts of Proposed ‘Kāpiti Gateway’ Visitor Facility
“It is noted that to the extent that the projections for a doubling of visitor numbers going to Kāpiti Island over the next five years (compared to present visitor numbers) and a tripling of visitor numbers over the next decade (compared to the current level of visitor activity) are achieved, additional operational resourcing may be required for the new facility at some stage in the future”.p5
Where does the truth lie? Readers should note that KCDC thought they could suppress this information and keep all the information they gave to the PGF secret.
It was only after KIS (Kapiti Improvement Society) went to the Ombudsman that the secret information was revealed.
The evidence to support such astronomical growth
KCDC was asked how they could say visitors numbers would explode 300% plus. KCDC refuses to explain.
This magical 58,400 is vital for the Kaj supporters to stick to. Unless those visitors turn up ratepayers will be paying up to $900,000 per year to keep the Kaj afloat.
Hence they kept on repeating that number as a proven fact in their application to the PGF. Here is just one example. At p11of it application it says:
“Kāpiti Coast economy has been modestly growing over the last decade and tourism has been a contributor to this.
The local tourism industry has attracted primarily domestic visitation and Kāpiti Island is a key part of this….. The total annual visitor limit to the Island is 58,000 and currently only 15,000 people are visiting, which means visitation is only at 25 percent.”
The facts that the Mayor and KCDC buried
KIS has received confirmation that it took 21 years for visitor numbers to double.
In 1997 7564 visitors went to Kapiti Island. In 2019 14985 visitor went. The Mayor tells us it will double in a year.
Why has he not told us that in fact the numbers went down between 2018 and 2019? Those facts disproved the fiction.
The origin of the 58,400 fantasy figures
From documents we have now seen it is clear how they created this number of guaranteed visitors.
To explain the impressive science behind it. The Greater Wellington Regional Council allows a maximum 160 people to go to the Island each day. So KCDC said “Lets multiply 160 by 365 days and voila! it’s 58,400! This brilliant piece or arithmetic apparently proves the Island will have 58,000 visitors.
Covid will mean more visitors
KCDC told the PGF that Covid 19 would not result in declining visitor numbers. In fact increased visitor were expected.
The truth that KCDC suppressed — numbers have plunged. Not only that, KCDC also said there had been a constant increase in numbers at the rate of 12.5% per year when the facts prove this was also untrue.
Does KCDC have the money to subsidise having the highest rate of debt per household in the Wellington region?
On KCDC’s own figures, the Kaj will need subsides for 6 years, and if there is not a 400% increase in tourists the annual subsides will be up to $900,000 a year.
Guru in his various columns has said the project is affordable, and there is plenty of money.
He has assured ratepayers we have no debt to worry about. However he had the CEO tell the PGF that KCDC is on the bones of its arse.
The Mayor and the majority of councillors wanted to suppress this dismal view of Kapiti’s financial situation.
KCDC told the PGF ( p23): “ In 2018, Kāpiti Coast District Council had the fourth highest residential rates… and the highest rate of debt per household ($9,836) in the Wellington region.
“In view of the Council’s financial commitments, the district’s urgent infrastructure needs and our commitment to our constituents to keep rates rises as low as possible, (Council has just approved a 2.6 percent rates increase when prior to COVID-19, a 5.7 percent increase was proposed), we are unable to commit any more funding to this project.”
KCDC is now saying it has more than enough money to subsidise ticket prices so they do not go up by more than 12.5%. This will cost another $90,000 pa.
KCDC is relying on the indication of Mr Barrett, director of Kapiti Island Tours, that he will be providing free of charge, a person to be at the Kaj every day.
It is noted that Mr Barrett”s company received a $500,000 Covid bail out last week.
So if Mr Barrett’s company does not front up that will be another expense. Yet the Mayor and his Kaj advocates have told the PGF there is no money to do so.
How reliable are the Mayor’s and the CEO’s reassurances?
One of the boat companies was reassured by KCDC there would be no requirement to use the building. KCDC said there was none.
However it seems KCDC has orchestrated with the Department of Conservation to make it a requirement that all biosecurity checks are carried out in the building.
We have seen letters from the Department of Conservation requiring the boat concessionaires to use the Kaj otherwise their licences will be revoked.
Leaders please give us the truth
Will Rogers, the great American thinker (and Joe Biden supporter) says “If you ever injected truth into politics you have no politics”. Kapiti deserves better.
Mr Mayor, CEO, councillors. Put aside the spin. Stop dressing up fantasies in the garb of proven facts.
Please demand of your advisors that they give facts, not fantasies.
You have obviously asked your consultants to come up with expensive reports that will show the Kaj is a great idea.
You will not pay for deplorable decision making, we ratepayers will. For once, insist on truth-show true leadership.
Can we expect true leadership? Hope springs eternally in the human breast!
Letter from DoC with correct visitor figures
5 October 2020
Mr Christopher Ruthe
Tēnā koe Christopher
Thank you for your Official Information Act request to the Department of Conservation, received on 16 September 2020, in which you asked for:
“Can you please provide me with the Kapiti Island visitor numbers since 1997 to 2020?”
Your questions and our responses are listed below:
1. “Can you please provide me with the Kapiti Island visitor numbers since 1997 to 2020?”
The data requested from 2000-2004 is unable to be provided after an extensive search of our archive records.
Nāku noa, nā
Director Operations, Lower North Island
027 201 7394 | firstname.lastname@example.org