Penny’s piece » October 2014

Council made the tough decision recently to close the Otaki I-Site and that will be happening in June next year. The investment of Kapiti-wide ratepayers’ money to attract and assist tourists is significant, but as we discovered through an external independent review, it is not an efficient or effective spend of your dollars at the Otaki location. This came as a genuine surprise to councillors and community board members, and while our hearts were keen to retain the Otaki I-Site as it is, we couldn’t ignore the over-whelming evidence that it was not an affordable service.

The Report into who uses the service and the nature of their enquiries, revealed that each enquiry was costing $10, and around half the enquiries were from local residents for miscellaneous matters, not tourists as was presumed.

Imagine if it cost $10, in service alone, for a cup of coffee! We would certainly see that as too expensive and not providing value for money. We must be prudent with your money, and when we do spend it on this type of activity we must ensure it is the most effective way of spending the rates, with the best possible results.

As a condition of my reluctant support to this move, and knowing that I did so with the support of the Otaki Community Board, staff are very clear they must ensure all the local resident enquiries will be addressed and all expectations met by the Council Service Desk at the library, or by other local providers. I expect there to be a seamless transition for ensuring tourists can access the information about local attractions and accommodation. We have helpful and friendly staff on our council service desk at the library – Monday to Friday – and I encourage you to go there for help. We also have an awesome Citizens Advice Bureau, which Council gives some financial support too, who are also helpful and friendly.

These days tourists access travel information in different ways compared to when the I-Site was established, and we must move with the market and that is through the internet, social media, and travel apps via computers and mobile phones.

Council still owns this gorgeous historic building, and there are no plans to change that. But out of this change a new opportunity can emerge, so let’s get thinking about what we could put into the historic court house.

Years ago locals banded together to move the building to the site, that was a great move, and now there is an opportunity for us to renew its use. Personally I can just envisage arts and crafts in there, alongside local produce for sale show-casing the Otaki and Te Horo food basket for which we are famous. What would you like to see there?