Making the Case for Kāpiti Gateway

Kāpiti Island from the Proposed Kāpiti Island Gateway building.

Kāpiti Coast Districtwide Councillor Jackie Elliott favours the building of a Kāpiti Island Gateway….

“The pristine native offshore environment which we are lucky enough to have on our doorstep remains our collective responsibility to protect. It is our taonga from our past for the future.

The shape of tourism around our Island is far from doom and gloom and we are incredibly lucky to have Kāpiti Island off our coast. The Gateway ideas didn’t just happen in the last few years, it has taken much effort, considerable money and time (over 3 decades) to get to this point where a 50/50 Govt/council funding application is being considered by the PGF. The plans, at less than 1/3 any previous cost to ratepayers, are on the table, and the engagement undertaken and compromises made to get to this point have been an absolute credit to the stakeholders and council team.

For the past 7 years D.O.C. have enabled a much more diverse range of ways to enjoy the island and the marine reserve environs bringing the destination in line with the other domestic and international eco-tourism destinations we compete with for visitors. Current operators have been quick in setting up ways to utilise that full scope to date including the range of marine activities which are taking off. The scope is maybe bigger than many are aware, dawn and evening tours are easy options to add, as are fishing trips, educational, science focused and marine recreational opportunities and groups renting the DOC backpackers accommodation, but they do need a mainland base to enable them to do this safely.

Because of weather and tide conditions visitors coming for an Island day-trip will not necessarily be able to sail and it is exciting to finally be able to cater for them at a Gateway Centre with informative guided historical tours carried out by volunteer guides. Utilising the bio-security facility as a theatre space to tell our stories with audio and visual screens, live sound feeds and a few hours on tour to Nga Manu, Southwards the shops and other attractions. Quite a few of us (ex) guides and iwi are fully capable and trained to guide on the mainland for the tour operators at these times.

Many Kiwi’s already have an annual budget for international travel that is being diverted to domestic travel so there will be an immediate increase in the domestic market and the newly built Gateway Centre, The worldwide Covid event and our successful response has positioned New Zealand as a top future tourism destination in the world, the Gateway will be an added draw card to the Kāpiti Coast.

Schools are excited about the new Gateway outdoor classroom. Science and research expeditions will be able to utilise the facility as a comfortable base, out of the weather, before and after the Island trips, and it will be a destination for excursions for our retirement home residents to sit and enjoy the view while listening to the live birdsong feeds. It will also be a permanent home for our own historical iwi information material, and Kāpiti Coasters will be able to take time out in quiet comfortable reflection learning about our own incredible history.

With the energy to add value, we could and should have a very busy little community hub here at the Gateway centre.

Frankly, as an ex -guide, just being able to offer all our visitors a toilet that is not way across the park, a few day lockers for the safe storage of backpackers gear alongside secure overnight parking is going to be valued and very worthwhile contribution that we can make to improve the quality of the visitors experience to our district. I know these simple facilities that our guests have politely asked for every single day, because to be honest that is the very least they expect to find here.

There is much information and mis-information about the proposed Gateway and many people both against it and supportive of it and I am carefully listening to all views. If it does not happen at this time, despite the 50% PGF funding support, it will be the third time in three decades it has been put aside. However a fit for purpose visitor facility and Island departure facility remains an urgent need, and it can be built elsewhere on the Kāpiti Coast and if the Paraparaumu Beach business community and stakeholders do not want this strategic investment in visitor attraction at Paraparaumu Beach, it can be moved elsewhere.

I hope you can agree that some of what I have just suggested is entirely possible when we have a Gateway facility. It will be ‘our place’, as much for our community as our visitors and it is about a very serious strategic investment to enable Kāpiti’s economic recovery for the future.”

Written by Kāpiti Districtwide Cr Jackie Elliott