Conservation Minister Dr Nick Smith today announced a reduction to Kapiti Island permit fees to come into effect from tomorrow.
"Kapiti Island is an iconic landmark which deserves to be enjoyed by as many New Zealanders as possible. DOC will drop the permit fee for adults from $28.75 to $10.00 and waive the fee for all children aged 17 and under from tomorrow," Dr Smith says.
The change, announced by the Minister this evening in Paraparaumu, follows an independent review of Kapiti Island visitor management which was undertaken at the end of the 2013/14 summer season. DOC commissioned the review to address the steady decline in the number of visitors to Kapiti Island in recent years.
“It was particularly concerning to see that only 402 people visited the island in January this year, compared with 1569 in January last year. The Kapiti Island tour operators have raised concerns about ongoing declines in visitor numbers following changes in how visits are run and increases in DOC’s permit fees. These fee changes will cost DOC $59,850 per year.
"The Kapiti Island tour operators and Ōtaki MP Nathan Guy have raised concerns that the fee structure was causing a decline in the number of visitors. DOC does not believe this is the only factor contributing to the declining numbers in that the trend precedes the fee changes, and that the operators and DOC also need to up the marketing effort for the island experience.
"There is a real lesson for DOC as there has been for Zealandia in Wellington that there is significant price sensitivity to these sorts of sanctuary experiences. The reason I have backed the fee reduction is that I want as many people as possible to enjoy and experience the unique birdlife that defines New Zealand but which is so rare on the mainland.
"The decision to waive the fee for children aged 17 and under is because I particularly want DOC to connect with young people. We need to educate our young people of the vulnerability of our native birds and the work DOC does to ensure their future survival.
"I have also asked DOC to develop a charter with the tour operators to provide a shared vision on the Kapiti Island experience. The charter needs to ensure tight adherence with the biosecurity requirements, improved experiences for visitors, increased accessibility and a more collaborative approach to marketing the experience.
"Kapiti Island is the oldest sanctuary in New Zealand, a natural treasure chest of rare species and a defining landmark for the community. These changes are an opportunity for the Kapiti community to lift the island’s profile, attract more visitors and enhance the wider regions commitment to conservation."