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Photo by Rob Suisted, Nature's Pic Images, Wellington, NEW ZEALAND. Photo copyright to Rob Suisted - All rights reserved. Fees payable for all uses.  Please contact us for licencing at:  Email: robsuisted@naturespic.comWith its expan­ded air­port and express­way plans, new big-box retail­ers, rebuilt civic build­ings and new aqua centre, Par­a­pa­raumu is grow­ing. Will fur­ther devel­op­ment plans inject the area with more tour­ist dol­lars, improve com­pet­i­tion and cre­ate more oppor­tun­ity – or make it a gentri­fied bypass to Wel­ling­ton? Renée Ger­lich invest­ig­ates wheth­er Par­a­pa­raumu is being developed, or divided.

Te Moana Road in Waik­an­ae – the main road, lead­ing from the moun­tains and motor­way to the sea – is beau­ti­ful. It is lined with nat­ive and decidu­ous trees, burst­ing in spring with pink pop­corn cherry blos­som, and sprinkled with walk­ers and cyc­lists trav­el­ling to and from the shops, beach, swim­ming pool or Waik­an­ae River.

Just south of Waik­an­ae is Par­a­pa­raumu. Those who don’t often ven­ture in recog­nise it by the buf­fet of fast-food out­lets along State High­way 1 (SH1), includ­ing Bur­ger King, McDonald’s, KFC and Wendy’s. Paraparaumu’s equi­val­ent of Te Moana Road is Kapiti Road. Head­ing west along it on a clear day, Kapiti Island looks just a stone’s throw away. Oth­er­wise, the view is filled with big-box retail­ers, a pet­rol sta­tion, gorse, log­piles and the airport.

Kapiti Road should be like Te Moana Road,” says Kapiti Coast Dis­trict Coun­cil (KCDC) coun­cil­lor and colum­nist K. Gurunath­an, explain­ing that Te Moana was planned to be green. “You look at Christ­ch­urch: it was planned. You look at Palmer­ston North: it was planned.”


So why isn’t Kapiti Road more like Te Moana? “Flat earth,” he says. Paraparaumu’s geo­graphy allows prop­erty developers to pur­chase mul­tiple lots for rents that reach around $1 mil­lion per year. “So they need ‘anchor ten­ants’, which are largely big-box type… Some time in the future, 20 years from now, this [Kapiti Road land] will all be filled up. If we believe in growth, that is.” By “growth”, Gurunath­an appears to mean the eco­nom­ic kind, the tra­ject­ory of which is ever chal­len­ging to predict.

Cur­rently, air­port landown­ers Todd Prop­erty Group and Kapiti Land­ing dir­ect­or Noel Robin­son want coun­cil reg­u­la­tion relaxed to devel­op the Kapiti Land­ing Busi­ness Park (KLBP) on the air­port zone. The council’s Devel­op­ment Plan pre­vents this area from becom­ing a ‘centre’, to pro­tect the cur­rent civic centre oppos­ite Coast­lands shop­ping centre. The plan ensures “retail and com­mer­cial activ­it­ies under­taken with­in the [air­port] Pre­cinct do not have adverse effects on the centre’s hierarchy”.

KLBP’s web­site boasts plans for a $5 mil­lion air­port upgrade on 300,000 square metres of develop­able area. The land comes with a prom­ised 8,000 new jobs, includ­ing 5,000 full-time equi­val­ent (FTE), all over­seen by “one proud own­er”. Res­taur­ants, cafés, cycle­ways and walk­ways, “out­door art­works”, parks, pos­sible pub­lic amen­it­ies and more than 4,000 car park­ing spaces are also on the draw­ing board.

KLBP evolved from a privately ini­ti­ated KCDC Devel­op­ment Plan change (Plan Change 73). This came before the coun­cil in 2006, when it was “was hotly con­tested”, accord­ing to KCDC. Debates, hear­ings, close votes and an envir­on­ment court appeal res­ul­ted in a 2009 agree­ment to make the plan change oper­at­ive. The Dis­trict Plan Review is cur­rently under­way, with KCDC receiv­ing sub­mis­sions on this issue.

Kapiti-6Todd Group and Robin­son want to see more “flex­ib­il­ity” in the scale and nature of busi­nesses allowed on their land, “to make it as easy as pos­sible for busi­nesses to come in,” says Robin­son from his Auck­land office. “We’re com­pet­ing against Pori­rua, Hutt Val­ley, Palmer­ston North, Foxton.”

Eco­nom­ic devel­op­ment is a KCDC pri­or­ity, yet it is not clear if KCDC seeks the kind of devel­op­ment Pori­rua and Palmer­ston North have under­gone. The Long Term Plan 2012–2032 states: “Job cre­ation (par­tic­u­larly smart job cre­ation), wealth attrac­tion and some lessen­ing of depend­ence on oth­er parts of the region, coun­try and world will bet­ter secure the future of Kapiti res­id­ents.” Smart jobs are defined as being “part of the new, low-car­bon eco­nomy which adds value to basic com­mod­it­ies and mater­i­als pro­duced in the area”. KCDC adds that they are keen to secure plenty of loc­al employ­ment for young people, and KLBP’s New World has seen three to four applic­ants apply­ing for every job available.

The Todd Group’s massive,” says Gurunath­an. “They can devel­op some amaz­ing things down there. They’ve got the money… [but] the cur­rent rule favours Coast­lands. It’s called a ‘centre-based approach’. It’s urb­an planning.”

When Coast­lands was estab­lished in the 1970s, it shif­ted Paraparaumu’s then-centre from the beach. “So basic­ally the heart of the com­munity was a mall,” says Gurunath­an. The lib­rary was then built, and this year, Coast­lands and Pak’nSave helped fund the new coun­cil build­ing and aqua centre. Since they want the foot traffic, they con­trib­ute to the civic centre devel­op­ment cru­cial to Kapiti’s expansion.

Coast­lands chief exec­ut­ive Richard Mansell says that “Todd Prop­erty Group bought the devel­op­ment with a set of rules cov­er­ing it. Those rules have been sor­ted out between the former own­er, Noel Robin­son, and the com­munity over about a three-year peri­od… [Now] they want to change the rules that they bought it under. I can see why they’d want to, but it’s a mat­ter of some­body with rather deep pock­ets com­ing in and bul­ly­ing. What they’ve said is, ‘Do what we want, or we’ll take our money and go elsewhere.’”


Par­a­pa­raumu Beach Busi­ness Asso­ci­ation (PBBA) chair War­wick Hal­crow says the air­port precinct’s new Smiths City, New World and Kit­chen Things may adversely affect busi­ness at the Beach Four Square, butcher, phar­macy, Lotto and home­ware stores. “Every­where you look, that’s the case in New Zea­l­and,” says Hal­crow on the effect of these large “cat­egory killers”.

While Kapiti Cham­ber of Com­merce (KCC) chair Mark Ternent says that the “move­ment of busi­ness and jobs from place to place” is part of eco­nom­ic growth, KCDC requires devel­op­ment to add to what is already offered in the region. Hal­crow says, “We don’t want to see, at the air­port, a rep­lic­a­tion of what already exists in Kapiti… and to a degree that’s all they’ve actu­ally achieved so far. All they’ve done is build big-box stores; they’re going to shift cus­tom­ers and jobs from one place to anoth­er. So, hope­fully we start to see the prom­ise in much pub­li­cised growth in high-value, smart busi­nesses com­ing in and open­ing up.”

Hal­crow says Todd Group is also plan­ning a farmer’s mar­ket, “which is look­ing like it’s poten­tially going to go head to head with our reg­u­lar Sat­urday mar­ket”. The suc­cess­ful beach mar­ket has attrac­ted a lot of cus­tom­ers for 13 years. “So we struggle to under­stand the logic of that. The PBBA want to see growth in the mar­ket on the beach.” Hal­crow says the mar­ket provides a chance for grass­roots busi­ness to start up. For $20 a week, stall­hold­ers can “go and see if their product will fly”. Thor­ough­bread, among “the best glu­ten-free bread in the coun­try”, is a major brand now, hav­ing star­ted at the market.

We’re try­ing to find out what they’re actu­ally pro­pos­ing, but at the moment no one can tell us,” Says Hal­crow. On being asked for more detailed plans, Robin­son called it “very improp­er to talk about these things through the press”. But Ternent says Kapiti would not be harmed by the com­pet­i­tion large-format retail rep­res­ents as “it spurs innov­a­tion”. To ensure their “slice of the pie… busi­nesses have to work harder,” he says, adding that “if con­sumers want to have loc­ally pro­duced products, then they have to buy them… con­sumers need to look at them­selves in the mirror”.

Des­pite the poten­tial threat Todd Group poses to beach busi­nesses, Hal­crow still thinks “the bene­fits out­weigh the neg­at­ives on the whole”. On the beach, “you’ve got a very large selec­tion of food, cafés, res­taur­ants, and you’ve also got more boutique kind of shop­ping”. Par­a­pa­raumu Beach already offers account­ants, soli­cit­ors, real estate agents, mort­gage brokers, fin­an­cial advisers and archi­tects, and may devel­op as a hub for niche busi­nesses and ser­vices. The council’s recent upgrade of the beach­front, the airport’s extra flights to and from Christ­ch­urch, and a hoped for trans­form­a­tion of the Kapiti Boat­ing Club into a Kapiti Island vis­it­or centre should also sup­port the growth of a tour­ist industry.


It’s a nice place to have an office,” Hal­crow says, adding that if the “prom­ised high­er-pay­ing jobs mater­i­al­ise… they’ll be the sort of people who will want a nice house by the beach… This is a very desir­able area to live. It’s got good amen­it­ies, the beach, park, schools are good – it’s just a pleas­ant place to live.”

Save Kapiti’s Bianca Begovich laments DOC’s prices for Kapiti Island vis­its becom­ing “unreach­able for the nor­mal New Zeal­ander” in favour of cap­it­al­ising on tour­ism. Her home sits among a col­lec­tion of empty lots in Waik­an­ae designed by John Smith as an eco-devel­op­ment among express­way-threatened wet­lands. “We didn’t come here or stay here because we want to go shop­ping or catch aero­planes,” she says.

To her, the air­port and Kapiti Express­way devel­op­ment plans will also see increased con­ges­tion on Kapiti Road, fur­ther split­ting Par­a­pa­raumu between its west and east sides. So will devel­op­ment see Par­a­pa­raumu becom­ing gentri­fied, leav­ing those ‘over the tracks’ in the wake of tour­ist boats mak­ing pricey trips to Kapiti and freight trucks on a noisy motorway?

The 16-kilo­metre, four-lane express­way route from MacK­ays Cross­ing to Peka Peka is a $50 mil­lion pro­ject, accord­ing to KCDC – or $630 mil­lion, accord­ing to Camp­bell Live’s 2012 story ‘A very expens­ive stretch of road’. It includes three bridges, and “will def­in­itely bring massive changes that will be quite uncom­fort­able for people over the next 4–5 years,” accord­ing to KCDC.

We believe the express­way will really divide the dis­trict into two halves,” says Hal­crow. “It already is now, east of the exist­ing high­way and rail­way lines… what you’ll get as far as shop­ping goes is prob­ably a con­cen­tra­tion of east­ern res­id­ents on that side, and a con­cen­tra­tion of west­ern res­id­ents on this side… the demo­graph­ics will kind of sort them­selves out.”

Express­way plans include a major inter­change up and over Kapiti Road. “I don’t know how the traffic geni­uses have got that one sor­ted,” says Hal­crow. “Because already Kapiti Road gets highly con­ges­ted and has a traffic count very sim­il­ar if not great­er than State High­way 1.” On the bright­er side, he says per­haps beach cus­tom­ers will become more loy­al as they won’t want to both­er with inter­change traffic.

Kapiti Land­ing dir­ect­or Noel Robin­son is a sup­port­er of the express­way because it is what the “experts” (the New Zea­l­and Trans­port Agency, NZTA) recom­mend, and he and Ternent are both enthu­si­ast­ic about the prom­ised growth. Accord­ing to Gurunath­an, the inter­change will shift the town centre “towards the air­port. So that’s why Noel Robin­son thinks the express­way is the best thing to hap­pen in the whole world.”

Save Kapiti sec­ret­ary Mark Har­ris explains that Steven Joyce rekindled express­way plans in 2009, after a New Zea­l­and Coun­cil for Infra­struc­ture Devel­op­ment sub­mis­sion res­ul­ted in the plan­ning of a nation­wide road­ing pro­ject in the interests of road­ing con­struc­tion. The nation­wide Roads of Nation­al Sig­ni­fic­ance plan pushed the West­ern Link Road (WLR) off the table. The WLR had been in the Dis­trict Plan for some years, had been con­sen­ted through sev­er­al rounds of leg­al action, and much of the land had been bought.

In August, Save Kapiti lost an appeal against the express­way in the High Court. They are await­ing approv­al for a Supreme Court appeal on the basis that the gov­ern­ment has not assessed express­way plans suf­fi­ciently against the more socially and envir­on­ment­ally respons­ible WLR.

The WLR was co-designed by urb­an plan­ner James Lunday in the 1990s on the prin­ciple that “You don’t build a road and then fit your com­munit­ies into the road. You look at your com­munit­ies, and then you fit your road around that,” says Gurunathan.

So the WLR was designed with few­er lanes, lower speed lim­its, cycle­ways, bri­dle­ways and walk­ways. It was not a straight road designed for freight, which Begovich sug­gests should go on rail. KCDC have nego­ti­ated over 300 express­way con­di­tions, from envir­on­ment­al pro­tec­tion to noise mit­ig­a­tion and the devel­op­ment of cycle­ways, “but you don’t want to cycle along SH1,” says Begovich, who adds that the WLR had “areas for food grow­ing, busi­ness spaces – all kind of oppor­tun­it­ies to have a com­munity-based development”.

The express­way was first designed in the 1950s to alle­vi­ate traffic con­ges­tion and provide an emer­gency altern­at­ive route to State High­way 1. This was a time when motor­ways were good for eco­nom­ies. “Of course, by 1996,” says Begovich, “anoth­er whack­ing great motor­way through a sea­side com­munity didn’t seem such a good idea.” Begovich says the NZTA itself called the express­way designs – which pass through a tapu buri­al site, nation­ally sig­ni­fic­ant wet­lands and many res­id­en­tial homes – “unne­ces­sary”, “out­dated”, “socially divis­ive” and “poor urb­an planning”.

KCDC says the express­way prom­ises 500 FTE jobs, many for more than four to five years, “and quite a num­ber of people expec­ted to live up here while they work on the pro­ject”. Begovich says the WLR offered 4,000 jobs: “not just build it, plant it and leave, but 4,000 ongo­ing jobs”. She adds that the chain of fast-food out­lets along SH1, “at the likes of Te Moana Road, that’s the devel­op­ment we’re going to get with the express­way. That’s what motor­ways bring.” Per­haps not “smart” devel­op­ment as defined in KCDC’s Devel­op­ment Plans.

Kapiti’s may­or, Jenny Row­an, pre­vi­ously called the express­way the “high­way from hell”, and now says the pro­cess “has been very dif­fi­cult for people, and at times trau­mat­ic. I am very respect­ful of the views of Save Kapiti and the Alli­ance for a Sus­tain­able Kapiti, and acknow­ledge the work they’ve put into this issue. How­ever, it’s now time to let NZTA get on with the job, and for us to focus on get­ting the very best we can out of the project.”

Todd Group has stated that the region needs to “clearly demon­strate that Kapiti is open for busi­ness”. It is clear what this means for prop­erty investors and NZTA, but parts of the coun­cil and com­munity appear to have oth­er ideas. “If your urb­an design is age-friendly, it’s auto­mat­ic­ally fam­ily-friendly,” says Gurunath­an, adding that becom­ing age-friendly con­sti­tutes “an unreal­ised poten­tial for shap­ing the com­munity that we want”.

The last hear­ing for KCDC’s Dis­trict Plan takes place in May 2014, and the gov­ern­ment will want Save Kapiti’s Supreme Court appeal over and done with before elec­tion time, if it takes place. In the next 18 months the shift of Paraparaumu’s main bustle shift to the air­port zone, where the major motor­way inter­change is likely to be built, could begin. Only time will tell wheth­er these long struggles will ulti­mately deliv­er the best res­ults for Par­a­pa­raumu and the wider Kapiti region.


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