Kāpiti Coast District Council is to apply to the Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) to pay for half the costs of a proposed Kāpiti Island Gateway visitor centre located in Maclean Park, Paraparaumu Beach.
The single storey, 235sqm, Athfield Architects-designed relocatable centre with associated improvements to the area is estimated to cost $4.46m with half of the cost funded by the PGF and the other half by ratepayers.
The budget also includes a $1m contingency fund (35 per cent).
Council chief executive Wayne Maxwell told councillors at Thursday's meeting he was "moderately confident" of PGF success.
"We either take the opportunity to apply to the Provincial Growth Fund and see where we get or we don't.
"If we don't we will park it until some future date when there might be an opportunity to revisit.
"If we do go ahead then we will wait and see if the fund [PGF] agrees to supply their share.
"You will still have the opportunity to complete the process of deciding whether the building is feasible to build and operate.
"We haven't done that work, it's not complete, and not gone through the processes."
Obtaining the funding didn't mean it had to be spent either.
"We can hand it back, and would do, if this project wasn't feasible when we've completed the rest of the work."
The lengthy meeting discussed construction blowout fears, operating cost concerns, impact on ratepayers, lack of community input on the final design, tourism predictions, island visitor estimates and more.
Council also heard from two Kāpiti Island tour operators each with varied viewpoints.
Vicki Cooper, from Kapiti Island Eco Experience, said the company felt "completely misled" as they "were led to believe it [the centre] wouldn't be user pays and not be staffed."
"All that is required is a simple cost-effective multipurpose bus shelter type situation.
"We're not opposed to some sort of Kāpiti Gateway.
"We're opposed to a 160sqm user pays gold standard biosecurity unit and commercial tenancy."
Even though exact details about the centre's operation hadn't been finalised, she still felt it was "over the top for public use of money".
But John Barrett, from Kapiti Island Nature Tours, said for 30 years there had been various plans mooted.
The latest proposal would be an asset for Kāpiti "well into the future".
"Having a modern new world facility is the least we can do.
"Our Kāpiti Island experience, contrary to what others might say, is third world when people have to do their check-in and biosecurity processes in the carpark and then come to a world class experience on Kāpiti Island.
"It just doesn't match up or make sense.
"This is the best opportunity we will ever have of getting it completed.
"If it's not done Kāpiti will be the poorer for it — that's without any self-interest in terms of our tours.
"We will survive without it [Gateway] but Kāpiti will be poorer."
Jack Mace, from the Department of Conservation, said it supported the Gateway project as it would improve the biosecurity of the island, improve visitor experience, build demand for visiting the island, and make the island more accessible.
He said the department couldn't "directly contribute" to the project but noted it spent a lot on island infrastructure. And that 16,000 people visited the island last year contributing about $6 million to the local economy.
After the meeting mayor K Gurunathan said it was a challenging decision and not one the council had taken lightly.
He acknowledged the hard work council staff, members of the governance group, key stakeholders, community and iwi representatives had put in to get the council to a position where they could consider putting forward an application.
"The project has been on the table for 28 years and, while there's a lot more detail to be worked through, if we are successful in getting the funding we need to progress this project I'm confident Kāpiti won't look back."
Council expects to submit its funding application within the next few weeks.
If successful construction could start within six months of funding being approved.