Māori-owned Kāpiti Island tourism company gets PGF boost

By Talisa Kupenga

The government has announced more than $3.2mil in provincial growth funding for the Kāpiti region.  This includes a boost to Kāpiti Nature Tours, the only tourism company based on Māori land on Kāpiti Island.

Managing director John Barrett says the $635,000 allocated to the business will grow his 18 person team by eight positions.

"This is huge for us because without it we just couldn't develop our business the way we want to have it developed."

Barrett says the provincial growth funds were a lifeline because getting finance for traditionally Māori-owned land is “ultra difficult”.

“We love being there, we love being on our whenua and providing and producing manaakitanga to our visitors.  It’s a great place to be and a great place to work.

“It’s the sort of product that Tourism NZ says we should be developing in NZ.  It is low-impact, nature eco-tourism delivered from a whānau base.”

The money will allow the Barrett's family-run business to scope tourism infrastructure development opportunities, including a potential upgrade to facilities and new renewable energy resources.

Barrett says, "We operate at about 40 percent occupancy of our lodge but for day visitors we're entitled to up to 60 day visitors on one part of the island and 100 at the other part so this funding will enable us to get to those maximum numbers."

Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones says, "It will make it easier for the family on Kāpiti to look at alternative energy sources for their eco-tourism hub."

A company producing state-of-the-art hands-free wheelchairs operated by the user’s body movement will also receive a $2.5mil loan to centralise production in Ōtaki.  It is expected to bring 21 new jobs.

A Provincial Growth Fund Programme Manager based at Kāpiti Coast District Council was also established at a cost of $140,000 over two years.