There are two major issues confronting Otaki at the moment. They are issues for all of Kapiti as well but as Otaki is a border town the impact of these two issues is greater. Both issues have the potential for increased marginalisation of our town.
The first issue is the fate of the Capital Connection, which runs from Palmerston North and back, and is the only train to stop at Otaki. It is used by many to get to Wellington for work or social events. It stops once both ways — at approx 7.15am and 6.30pm and is a lifeline for those who commute to Wellington to work, allowing the roads to be freer, tempers to be calmer, costs lower while allowing those people the joy of living in our town. Others use the service for other things. It was used by us once or twice a week for a year when our grandson was ill with leukaemia when we did a share of the caring. Others may use it for a day of fun, visiting friends or galleries or go to a show. It is a necessity for Otaki residents. The threat by KiwiRail to stop the service has been around for some years and a final decision on its fate is to be made mid-year. The Capital Connection is an anomaly for KiwiRail. It is run and advertised under the banner of ‘KiwiRail Scenic’ along with the Northerner, TransAlpine, Coastal Pacific — not the Metro commuter service which it clearly is. KiwiRail wants rid of it. The funding model is also an anomaly. It is the only commuter service not subsidised by government. Residents of the Wairarapa get a much better-subsidised commuter service than we do.
This week a meeting in Otaki heralded the fight-back and the campaign to save the service. A campaign team under the chair of Iain Lees Galloway has been established. If you want to help, contact him at Parliament, or Penny Gaylor at KCDC.
The second issue is the proposed amalgamation of KCDC with a Greater Wellington Super City. There has also been a meeting in Otaki to discuss this. The proposed amalgamation is precipitous, the debate is hasty and we are being railroaded! The evidence from the Auckland amalgamation experiment is ill- defined. This is a push by the Regional Council regardless of the views of the community it purports to serve. We do not think amalgamation will benefit Otaki. But neither will it benefit Otaki to secede from Kapiti and Wellington and throw in our lot with the Horowhenua. Their interests do not align with ours. For all their excesses we are better off looking to the south where many of our people go to work and play, but there has not been enough work done on the risks and benefits. There has not been enough work done of the costs and lessons from Auckland. There is no hurry, apart it seems from politicians, and we wonder at their reason and unseemly haste. Our preference in this imbroglio is to exhort Kapiti Coast District Council to hold firm in its purpose of supporting the whole community. Do not follow the hasty drum beats from Wellington and rush headlong into an experiment where the long term benefits of Auckland to local democracy and cost are as yet undetermined. The argument that Wellington will become a backwater without amalgamation is illogical and meaningless. It suggests an unseemly grab for power from a few politicians regardless of cost or reason. It is an illogical folly.