1. What do you consider to be the biggest opportunities and threats facing Kapiti over the next five to ten years?
The biggest opportunity and threat are one and the same – the growth and demographic shift in population in our district caused by several factors but particularly Transmission Gully and housing affordability in Wellington City. Our district is already seeing changes and the scale and pace of these will increase in the coming years, regardless of how we feel about it. The question we need to ask ourselves is how can we make sure this change is a positive one, and how can we best harness the opportunities it brings. Do we want to simply be a retirement village and dormitory suburb, or do we want to be a district made up of unique and thriving communities, where everyone is welcome and can live a great life, regardless of what stage they are at.
2. Economic growth has benefits for everyone living in the district. Kapiti needs a sound economic development strategy. How would you go about ensuring the strategy is developed and implemented and who should be involved?
The current economic development refresh is important, and we need a council committed to implementing the outcomes of it, working alongside community groups (including KEDA, the Chamber of Commerce, our local iwi, and others) not dictating to them.
We must continue to review and revisit its performance in the coming years, to take into account what works and what doesn’t, and who or where is missing out. I am a firm believer in Council walking alongside community groups, as this results in the most effective outcomes for all.
3. Will Kapiti have the infrastructure needed to support projected population growth? If not, what are the key priorities for infrastructure development?
No we do not. Priorities include a mix of new infrastructure – such as ensuring Greater Wellington and central government bring forward funding for commuter rail to Ōtaki – and revitalising existing infrastructure – including already identified significant costs in upgrading and refreshing our underground infrastructure for the three waters. While flooding will always be a problem for our district, we must continue the work already done to improve our resilience in this area, and there will be significant costs (which we need to pressure central government to pay for) relating to climate change mitigation in the coming decades.
4. Council has a goal of being “Open for Business”. What does this term mean to you and what can Council do to ensure it achieves this goal?
Being open for business means ensuring Councillors and council staff take an enabling attitude to our work. It doesn’t mean we always say yes, but it means we work hard to find a way to do something, rather than saying no by default. It means continuous engagement with all parts of our community, and being responsive to concerns where they are raised. To be truly open for business, council has to see it’s role as to facilitate others as well as to do it’s own core tasks. A council that tries to do everything itself and is fearful of others taking the lead is a council that is doomed to fail.
5. Does Council have a role to encourage businesses to relocate or establish here? If so, what kind of support should Council offer?
Absolutely, and not just businesses, but also central government. Council should be actively promoting the district as a good place to move or establish businesses as a means of providing more and better employment for residents. We can’t keep relying on our proximity to Wellington and set our sights so low that we only ever intend to be a commuter suburb. While many of our residents will continue to commute to Wellington, we need a council that actively takes steps to encourage more well-paying jobs in our district as well. My plan for better paying jobs in our district is available at https://www.asherforkapiti.nz/betterjobs.
6. How Important is it to tell the “Kapiti Story” and how would you go about supporting a project to do this?
We are lucky to have a significant creative sector in our district, and we should invite them to be at the centre of defining and telling our district’s story locally, regionally and nationally. Having a clear sense of self is critical if we are to sell our district’s benefits to others. My professional background is in communications and storytelling and so I am well placed to support this effort from the council table.
7. The future of the well-patronised Kapiti Community Centre is in doubt due to the discovery of leaks and mould in the building. Do you believe Kapiti needs a Community Centre? If so, what needs to happen to ensure we have one?
Our core public spaces – including libraries and community centres – are at the heart of building supportive communities. We need to find out the extent of damage to Te Newhanga Kāpiti Community Centre and the costs of fixing it. After that, a decision can be made on next steps, but I am commited to ensuring we have a fit-for-purpose community centre either through repairs to our current space or, if necessary, the sourcing of a new one.
8. There has been much debate over the proposed Kapiti Gateway project. There are varying views on the need for a Gateway, the proposed cost and the proposed location. How would you work towards a solution that is acceptable to the various stakeholders, including Council, the community, retailers, visitors and affected parties?
A Kāpiti Gateway centre would be a valuable community resource for the promotion of the island’s tourism opportunities, and for ensuring biosecurity, however the current proposal by the Council is significantly more complex and expensive than necessary. I would put progress on hold temporarily while genuine engagement took place with key partners and stakeholders, and would personally support one of the smaller, less costly suggestions that have already been put forward by some of those involved.
9. The Raumati Swimming Pool complex has been lying idle for some time. It has been proposed that the complex be used to develop a Marine Discovery Centre, which would have both local and national significance. Do you support the development of such a Centre? How should it be funded? Who should lead this project?
A Marine Discovery Centre, potentially including a whale museum, would be a great attraction. The Raumati Pool complex has sat empty for too long and is the logical location for this centre. The project does not need council to run it, but council should see it’s role as a cornerstone supporter and enabler, helping an independent trust to seek outside funding (both from central government and from the private sector) to pay for the project.
Our District is currently lacking in wet-weather opportunities for local families and for tourists, and the Marine Discovery Centre would be a wonderful solution to this challenge that embraces our coastal nature and tells the story of our wonderful marine reserve and our history.
10. What are your views on the protection of our coastlines and key coastal infrastructure?
We need to continue to invest in our seawalls, but we also need to be willing, when the time comes, to recognise where, in some parts of our district, managed retreat may be the only solution. The reality of climate change means that these decisions will be forced on us whether we like them or not, but with clear planning and lots of notice, they can be managed effectively. In the meantime, mitigation cannot be funded by rates alone, and KCDC has a role to play alongside our local government colleagues around the country in speaking with a clear voice to central government to ensure they come to the party with significant funding.