- What do you consider to be the biggest opportunities and threats facing Kapiti over the next five to ten years?
The biggest opportunities for Kāpiti in the next decade are all around using the population growth from Transmission Gully to diversify the economy to provide a greater variety of jobs with higher wages; draw in more visitors who will stay for longer and spend more with our accommodation, creative, arts, tourism, retail, and food and beverage sectors; to improve access to education and healthcare; and to get more central government support for infrastructure to ensure growth is handled well.
The biggest threat our district is facing is continuing to not manage growth well. Worsening housing and rental affordability is driving many people, especially those on fixed and lower incomes, out of Kāpiti, and threatens to make our district simply another commuter suburb of Wellington. We also face a significant downturn in the construction sector with roading projects finishing up in the next two years and no new ones in the pipeline, while residential building consents are also falling away. There will be a significant number of people employed on the roading infrastructure projects, and businesses who indirectly benefit from them, who will be impacted when work is completed.
- 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?
It’s crucial that throughout the development of the new economic development strategy that groups like the Chamber of Commerce, KEDA, Manaaki Kapiti, local iwi, and others are involved, and that they’re able to own and oversee the implementation of the strategy through a separate governance group, with Council having a seat at the table and providing resourcing, but not being in the driver’s seat. The economic development strategy governance group would also benefit from being able to oversee an economic development fund, as well as input into the major events fund too.
- Will Kapiti have the infrastructure needed to support projected population growth? If not, what are the key priorities for infrastructure development?
Right now, no we won’t. While Transmission Gully and the Expressway will provide great roading access to the south, public transport investment has not kept up with this and needs to. For example, while Greater Wellington Regional Council’s proposal to buy new electro-diesel units to upgrade the Capital Connection is a step in the right direction, they will only be able to offer a handful of additional services through Ōtaki each day, which is still not suitable for proper commuter rail. The electrification of the rail network to Ōtaki is needed now, not in 20 or 30 years as is currently planned.
We also need to ensure that our supply of affordable and social housing keeps pace with demand to take the heat out of runaway house price and rental growth, and to do that Council needs to be an enabler of new developments, finding innovative policy solutions to encourage the right kind of developments, and work on central government for them to step up and play their part across the board.
Additionally, we need to continue the work being undertaken by groups like the Kāpiti Health Advisory Group to get more health services decentralised to the Kāpiti Coast, as well as pushing for other supporting resources such as more police, schools, recreational facilities etc. We will also need to investigate and invest in ensuring our waste, storm, and drinking water infrastructure will be able to keep pace with growth under the current renewals programme.
- 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?
Open for business is all about not just being a regulator, but also being a navigator for those who are wanting to do things like launch a new business, start a new event, get a community project off the ground, or undertake a housing development. Where these people run into issues with regulation, Council’s role isn’t to simply put up a roadblock and leave them to sort it out on their own, but instead they need to be actively helping them to find a solution that works for everyone.
It also means proactively engaging and listening to Kāpiti’s business community when Council is making decisions and determining policy, and ensuring that their views are taken account of and that wherever possible. Council and our business community must work together as partners to support development that will create a vibrant, diverse, and sustainable economy with new jobs and higher wages for Kāpiti.
- Does Council have a role to encourage businesses to relocate or establish here? If so, what kind of support should Council offer?
Council definitely has a role to play in promoting and encouraging businesses to relocate and get established in Kāpiti. An economic development fund could help local businesses take the next step in their growth with small, targeted grants. For attracting businesses from outside Kāpiti to relocate to the district, Council can never compete with larger centres with financial incentives, so we shouldn’t play that bidding game, but instead we need to ensure that the infrastructure, planning rules, and talent are available to enable Kāpiti put forward the best pitch forward possible.
- How Important is it to tell the “Kapiti Story” and how would you go about supporting a project to do this?
The Kāpiti Story is crucial for being able to promote Kāpiti to the rest of New Zealand. Nationally, our district is largely known for being on the packets of Fonterra cheese products, and through Kāpiti Island’s reputation as a world class pest-free nature reserve. Regionally, we can also add an appreciation of Kāpiti’s creative and arts sectors and our great climate and small town feel to the mix. The Kāpiti story is vital to ensure we capture everything that Kāpiti can offer in terms of work and lifestyle opportunities, but also to convey the unique identity of our communities.
I’d look for Council to provide resources to engage local experts to work with communities across Kāpiti to distill the essence of what makes Kāpiti special, and the opportunities that are available here. They would then develop that into an identity and story would be tested with our communities, refined, and gotten to the point where it has broad support and enduring appeal so we can use it to promote Kāpiti, its people, and its businesses. This has to be much more than just a single strapline, but a comprehensive vision and identity for our district.
- 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?
Kāpiti absolutely needs a community centre, and I’m open to how that might look if the existing centre can’t viably be repaired, as there are exciting ideas being developed such as having a combined community centre and indoor sports campus. Any idea needs to have the support of the community, a plan to fund it which Council can support through some resourcing and making land available if needed, and a solid business case to ensure it’s a viable project. But as a bottom line, Kāpiti needs to ensure we have access to quality community spaces if we’re to retain our identity while the district grows. Importantly, we need a mayor who’ll be a champion for a project like this and I’d be happy to be that champion.
- 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?
I believe it’s generally accepted that as a bare minimum, a biosecurity check-in facility is needed at Paraparaumu Beach to better protect Kāpiti Island. What’s crucial in terms of getting a solution that is broadly acceptable to everyone is ensuring that the entire community is engaged in the process right from the get go. In many respects, we need to reset the current process and take it back to square one in terms of community engagement. While some stakeholders have been brought in for closed door discussions with Council, the area which is being considered for the gateway project belongs to our whole community, and as such, should be open, transparent, and community driven from the start, and must preserve the use and access to the area of existing users of that space in any development of it.
- 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?
I definitely support the development of the Marine Discovery Centre, especially with the idea of a national whale museum possibly being located there too. Kāpiti must build activities that complement Kāpiti Island, as there are only a finite number of people who can visit the island each year. Something like the Marine Discovery Centre, along with providing a base for scientific research of the Kāpiti Island Marine Reserve, would also be a tourist drawcard and invaluable educational facility for our community.
I’d envisage Council’s main role in providing the building needed, providing resourcing to support the development of the business case, concept drawings, and assisting with putting together funding applications to groups like the Lottery Grants Board, the Ministry of Arts, Culture, and Heritage, NIWA, Victoria University of Wellington, the Ministry of Business, Innovation, and Employment, and the Department of Conservation. A fundraising approach not dissimilar to the performing arts centre could be of use in this situation too.
In terms of leading the project, I believe that it’s best that the project sit outside of Council and remain community-led, but with Council being a strong supporting partner and providing resourcing where appropriate to ensure the project’s success.
- What are your views on the protection of our coastlines and key coastal infrastructure?
Kāpiti’s coastline is particularly vulnerable to the threats of coastal erosion and groundwater inundation due to climate change and, as the recent issues over coastal erosion projections appearing on LIM reports unannounced illustrated, it’s an issue that is hugely important for our community.
Given the complexities of the coastline, there will need to be a community-led approach to deciding where seawalls are built, and where managed retreat will be required, and this needs to be informed by a science-based approach too. Crucially, we will need to get additional funding to deal with the significant costs associated with this, regardless of which options are selected, and that will require central government’s help.
I’ve already proposed a Climate Change Adaptation Fund be set up as a partnership between Kāpiti Coast District Council and central government, and this could also be extended to include Greater Wellington Regional Council, which would look to set aside funding now to manage the growing cost of climate change adaptation on our coast in the future.