Kāpiti Cr Jackie Elliott calls for re-think on Kāpiti Island Gateway.
The proposed Kāpiti Island Gateway could be operational by next summer, but KCDC Districtwide Councillor Jackie Elliott is keen to put the brakes on given the re-emergence of Covid-19.
Cr Elliott, a former eco-tourism guide on Kāpiti Island, says the very recent re-emergence of Covid-19 in New Zealand has signalled a completely new-normal for the face of our on-shore tourism and has given us our first real look at how living long term with Covid-19 restrictions looks for tourism.
"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. And while New Zealand will remain popular, we have to listen to industry experts like the Auckland Airport Company who last week said they estimate it will be three years before they expect any return to normal international passenger numbers," says Cr 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 Kāpiti Island Gateway project to continue as scheduled pending the 'go decision by Council, however the new, real prospect of different regions in the country going in and out of different Covid-19 response levels, will put the wobbles on that building momentum as Kiwis become more cautious and wary about committing and pre-paying for travel accommodation and pre-booking visitor experiences and day trips."
Cr Elliott says, while she is well aware of the continuing need for a fit-for-purpose bio-security facility and visitor attraction hub for the Island, it is fortunate the Kāpiti Island Gateway project is in the KCDC Long Term Plan over the next three years and timing can easily be adjusted.
Cr Elliot says she has come to this view despite Council having been granted $2M Provincial Growth Funding towards it as a shovel ready project.
"Despite some perceptions, I have always had an open mind on the Gateway project. My support was always subject to a feasible business case, and adequate public consultation. Covid-19 has been a game changer for many projects and it is our job as Councillors to balance the facts, consider the costs and benefits, then act in the best interests of the people of Kāpiti.
"I will be taking a serious look at moving it out to the third year of the plan as Council prioritises providing for the response to Covid-19 and we have a clearer picture of the new normal for tourism in New Zealand and in Kāpiti," says Cr Elliott.