The Kāpiti Gateway project proposal to the Provincial Growth Fund and the public consultation process are "deeply flawed", Paraparaumu Beach Business Association chairwoman Sharon Hunter said.
But Kāpiti Coast District Council chief executive Wayne Maxwell has strongly defended the project.
Council is keen to build the gateway centre in Maclean Park, Paraparaumu Beach.
It has applied to the Provincial Growth Fund to pay for half of the $4.6 million estimated costs.
Hunter said the association didn't want competing businesses to operate in the centre.
The centre included pods for food and beverage/ retail which would be a "source of unfair competition" to nearby businesses.
She said the pods had been included to "make a case that the gateway will in six years be self funding" and cited a senior council staff member's email saying the business case was "a toughie" and "it is a long-term loss leader".
There would only be a positive impact if there was a well-designed integrated link between the gateway and businesses, Hunter said.
"Council refused to include this vital element in its application for resource consent."
Hunter said visitor numbers, which Kapiti Island Eco Experience called "made up", would have to rise to 30,000, from 14,000 within three years and up to 58,000 by 2030.
And ticket prices would increase by "at least $20 per ticket" while removal of carparking in Maclean Park to a new area in Paraparaumu Beach Golf Club would incur a $15 parking fee.
Extra charges would "diminish the visitors to Kāpiti Island".
"DoC undertook an independent review of visitor numbers in 2014 because there had been a significant drop in visitor numbers after DoC had put up charges.
"As a result DoC slashed its fees 75 per cent and visitors returned.
"Council is saying it knows better and that the council proposed 25 per cent to 50 per cent fee increase will see visitor numbers double.
"The association suggests this shows how deeply flawed the council business case is.
"Our business community have been suffering from the impact of Covid-19.
"The last thing the existing business community needs is for a drop off in tourists due to significant price hikes and the charging of $15 a day to park a car."
Kāpiti Coast District Council chief executive Wayne Maxwell responds:
The proposed Kāpiti Gateway is a big deal for our district and there is a high degree of public interest in this project.
It's unfortunate that in the wake of Covid-19 the facts have been misconstrued and statements made by council officers misrepresented.
The gateway presents a fantastic opportunity for our district, which is why I want to clarify some facts.
Why do we need a gateway?
Kāpiti Island is the primary icon for the Kāpiti Coast. It is a national conservation and cultural taonga. It's part of our district's identity and our turangawaewae (our sense of place), and a big drawcard for visitors, many of whom stay overnight and contribute to our economy.
Yet there is currently nothing on the Paraparaumu beachfront that provides a focal point for visitors; nowhere telling the Kāpiti Island conservation story, celebrating our deep cultural history, or connecting the mainland with the island.
There is high recognition locally and nationally of the need to tell the Kāpiti Island story, as well as those of the many other attractions and activities in our district, and to protect the island now and in the future through improved biosecurity measures.
There is potential to increase visits to Kāpiti Island without impacting the natural environment or by trying to operate 365 days a year. Visits to Kāpiti Island currently sit at only 25 per cent of annual capacity.
Establishing a gateway will create jobs and provide a much-needed boost to our tourism economy post Covid-19; but more importantly, it will add to the Paraparaumu Beach offering for young and old, for local residents and visitors alike — it will not detract from it.
Gateway concept not new
The concept of a gateway was first raised in Kāpiti at least 28 years ago and has been revisited many times since. In fact, stakeholder and community consultation on the council's draft Maclean Park Te Ūruhi Development Plan during 2016/17 saw the plan amended to allow more space for provision of a gateway at the park.
Funding for the gateway is signalled in the council's 2018 — 38 Long term plan, and set aside in both 2019/20 and 2020/21 Annual Plans. This has been no secret.
Building is fit for purpose
Allegations that the concept design for the gateway is not fit for purpose, and the process followed flawed, are simply unfounded. The concept design for the gateway was assessed against a robust set of criteria, and costed by a registered quantity surveyor. You can read more about the process on our website.
The building is designed to blend into the landscape and create strong connections with the beach, park and nearby shops. It will be lower than the height of the pohutukawa trees and, with the benefit of landscaping, will enhance how people interact with and move through the area.
This project is about enhancing the mana of Kāpiti Island and the Tikotu stream mouth and supporting the growth of local businesses, for the benefit of everyone in our community.
Car parking for visitors to the island to increase
Yes, establishing the gateway will require us to remove carparks. However, if this goes ahead, parking for people visiting the island (more than the number of parks being removed) will be made available at the Paraparaumu Beach Golf Club, and we will also need to improve access and parking for the whole area.
As a council we are committed to achieving good social, cultural, economic and environmental outcomes for our community. The gateway project has the potential to deliver on all of these.
We have been clear that any decision to progress this project, PGF funding or not, is subject to a viable business case. The proposal still has to be approved by council.
The PGF process required us to move at pace, and we were able to do this because of the work already done, including extensive consultation.
Investing in the future of our district and enhancing the mana of Kāpiti Island is important, and I encourage you not to write this project off before taking time to consider the facts.
For more information about the Kapiti Gateway visit https://www.kapiticoast.govt.nz/your-council/projects/kapiti-gateway-centre/