The decision to close the i-SITE was based on findings of a comprehensive review that showed the information centre was underused and, at a cost of around $10 per enquiry, did not provide a cost-effective way of spending ratepayer dollars. The review can be read here.
i-Sites around the country have been experiencing a drop off in business in recent years with people increasingly relying on mobiles and online services to get the information they need.
Where to from here?
Community and council service information will continue to be provided at the council service centre and Citizens Advice Bureau and bookings for bus and ferry services will be provided by easily accessible business outlets as well as via the internet and Freephone services. Visitor attraction maps are located in various places around Ōtaki.
The remaining i-SITE in Paraparaumu will become a revamped and upgraded Kāpiti i-SITE and will provide a better visual profile of Kāpiti and the distinct characteristics of its various towns.
As part of the wider Economic Development Strategy for Kāpiti, it is proposed to present a more compelling Kāpiti story with targeted messages to attract visitors, new residents, businesses, investors and students.
Research showed that use of the district’s two i-SITEs was dropping, many people were using them to get general rather than visitor information and they were not providing value for ratepayer spend.
The decision to close the Ōtaki i-SITE was made after discussions with a wide range of community groups and local businesses.
Ōtaki Travel in Main Street and AA in Paraparaumu can also book them and do not charge any additional booking fee.
Council staff are working with the Ōtaki Community Board to explore how tourism can be better promoted in Ōtaki, including and how visitors who stop to shop on the State Highway 1 can be attracted to the township.
Local businesses and gas stations are being approached to ask if they are interested in having promotional maps, brochures and a quick-reference information manual so they can help visitors.
We will also be looking at how we can improve the story of Kāpiti including what each town has to offer visitors and how this can be reflected at the remaining i-Site in Paraparaumu and through digital media.
Most of the inquiries currently handled by Ōtaki i-SITE are seeking information that is already available from the Council Service Centre at Ōtaki Library or from other community groups.
Council will also be considering whether to improve signage and the local community information that is available.
The Ōtaki old courthouse building remains an important heritage asset for the community and is not being moved.
Expressions of interest were sought for the building from community groups and assessed by a panel including members of the Ōtaki Community Board. The successful applicant was the Artscape Art and Craft Cooperative which consists of local artists and craftspeople who display and sell their art. They previously operated at Hyde Park Village, Te Horo and generate income out of sales of their work.
The cooperative is going to use the site to display art and crafts, to promote local artists and craftspeople and to run workshops and demonstrations. The space will also be used to promote Ōtaki and sell Kāpiti-made products and themed items, such as postcards and calendars.
The lease is for a year from October 1 with two rights of renewal for a year. Due to the community benefit expected to result from the lease, the nature of the building and the fact Artscape is a new tenant, a rent of $1 a year will initially be charged. This will be reviewed at the end of the first year, in line with current fees and charges.