“The assumption that we build a gateway and numbers will increase by 300% is absurd and shows an extreme lack of commercial acumen”. —Mr Glen Cooper, CEO of Kapiti Island Eco concerning Kapiti Coast District Council’s in-house report seeking to justify Guru’s gateway.
A project that doesn’t stack up
By Roger Childs
The proposal for an expensive check-in centre for people heading for Kapiti Island fails on many counts.
- It is based on unrealistic estimates of future visitors: from 15,000 to 58,000
- It is likely to put one of the tour companies out of business.
- It requires increases in fees for Island visits — a 25% increase for adults, 50% for children
- There hasn’t been viable provision made for extra parking.
- It lacks public support and has not gone through the democratic process of allowing submissions.
- Kapiti ratepayers are likely to end up subsidizing the project indefinitely.
The millions proposed for erecting the gateway would be much better spent on building the much-needed Waikanae Library which would have far more visitors in a year than the wildest projections for future Kapiti Island trippers.
Little public support and legal misrepresentation
Contract law says there is fraudulent misrepresentation where there is the act of hiding a material fact which, if known to the other party, could have significantly altered the basis of a deal, or transaction writes retired lawyer Christopher Ruthe. DOC knew that increasing fees would drive visitors away. Yet it told KCDC that visitor numbers would treble even with massive fee hikes.
This material fact was not mentioned to Councillors, or the PGF. So fraudulent misrepresentation has occurred.
Two polls (1350 people) taken locally showed 70% and 72% opposition to the Gateway project. So it is hardly surprising that the proposal was rushed through council without the normal submissions process. Only Councillors Compton, Halliday and Randall had the guts to vote against it. For their principled stance they were denigrated as “naysayers” by the Mayor.
The proposal went on the Eugenie Sage Minister of Conservation who gave it the big tick for it to proceed to the Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) for consideration. If it’s such a great idea why is the Department of Conservation not wanting to pay a cent towards it?
The legal misrepresentation relates to the proven negative effect of the cost of trips to the Island. Wellington’s Zealandia learned the hard way. It was a loss maker until admission fees were dropped. It proved visitors to tourist attractions are very sensitive to price increases. In 2014 Minister of Conservation, Nick Smith responded to a fall in traffic to Kapiti Island by setting up an independent review. It found price increases had caused the dramatic fall in visitor numbers. The Minister ordered the reduction of the adult fee from $28.75 to $10 and making it free for children. Not surprisingly, the visitor number went up.
Unrealistic visitor estimates and proposed fee increases
The Kapiti Island Gateway Proposal postulates that visitor numbers will increase from 15,000 (in 2019) to 30,000 in 5 years and ultimately to 58,000 by 2030!
The Project also proposes increasing Kapiti Island trip fees by 25% for adults and 50% for children, which may well result in tourist numbers dropping. That outcome would see Kapiti ratepayers having to underwrite Guru’s white elephant for many years to come.
In the famous Shelley poem these lines appear:
My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!
The Mayor wants a “work” to be remembered by: Guru’s Gateway to Kapiti Island — the Taj Mahal of the South Pacific. Could his Ozymandias complex be satisfied by calling a new public facility in Waikanae ‘The Gurunathan Library’? His ego would be massaged and appropriately soothed. More importantly, residents and ratepayers would benefit. The Gateway only benefits out of town visitors, who pay no rates. [With the necessary fee increase in the fares, they wouldn’t benefit either. —Eds]
Meanwhile back in Paraparaumu Beach, why not build a small extension to the Kapiti Boating Club, beside where visitors to the Island board their boats, so the bio-security checks can be carried out under cover?