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.
“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.