It's make or break time for the proposed Kāpiti Gateway Centre with a council meeting on Thursday to decide whether to proceed with the multi-million dollar project.
The project involves building a centre in the northern corner of Maclean Park, Paraparaumu Beach, which would tell Kāpiti Island's story, feature a biosecurity hub for island visitors, celebrate deep cultural connections, and be a visitor centre for the district.
The estimated cost of the centre is $4.46 million with the government stumping up half of the costs from its Covid-19 Response and Recovery Fund.
The idea of some kind of centre has been talked about for a long time, especially because of a lack of a proper island departure point on the mainland, but started to gain traction especially during public consultation on the park's development plan in 2017 which led to a feasibility study involving various stakeholders and Kāpiti Coast District Council signalling funding for a centre.
Various plans for the centre were put forward before an independent governance group recommended a design by Athfield Architects which involved a 235sqm single storey multi-purpose gateway building with an expansive [450sqm] deck.
Associated landscaping features include a revamp of the Titoki Stream which is next to the park.
An indicative business case was developed which has led to various changes reflecting feedback from stakeholders and the community as well as the impact of a post-Covid-19 environment.
Community feedback had focused on a reduction in car parks, questions about visitor growth forecasts, biosecurity fees, financial sustainability, proposed building site and project budget.
A report for the meeting said while 17 car parks would be lost in the park, the remaining 14 car parks could be time-limited to prioritise usage by park and beach users, that a council-owned public car park on the corner of Kāpiti Rd and Maclean St could be redeveloped and enlarged to create more car parks, and Paraparaumu Beach Golf Club was still willing to look into a commercial agreement to provide offsite all day/overnight parking as an option for up to 30 cars.
It said forecast visitor growth projections was now 92 per cent to 2030 - the indicative business case had the figure at 224 per cent.
It proposed reducing the biosecurity self-check facility user fee from opening day in 2020 to $4 for adults and free for children, and, subject to review, increase by $2 every second year until $10 for adults and $5 for children is reached in 2028.
Pricewaterhouse Coopers (PwC), who was engaged to review the business case and operating model options, had concluded there were three "equally viable options" for a centre which were:
Option K - Biosecurity, visitor/discovery centre, office, gift shop, cafe and bar/brasserie.
Option J - Biosecurity, visitor/discovery centre, gift shop, cafe and bar/brasserie.
Option F - Biosecurity, visitor/discovery centre, office, gift shop.
PwC said all options would break even in about five to six years and incur similar operating deficits ranging from -$302,000 to -$349,000 until break-even point was reached.
The report said the proposed centre had been designed to respect the environment, improve public beach access, was relocatable, provide a connection to the park and beach shops, and create economic benefits.
It recommended the council approve the gateway project and proceed on the basis of one of the three options.
It noted the project was running 120 days behind a government timetable and "any further delays to this agreed timetable may result in the funding being withdrawn".
"Council resolutions for support and co-funding of the project are critical to meet the pre-conditions outlined in the funding agreement."