As a Kāpiti local, I’m naturally biased in my aspirations for the region. It is my home, where we’ve raised our family, and from where I run my business. These business interests centre around innovation and transformation, entrepreneurs and start-up founders, capital investment and capability to grow ventures globally for material outcomes–economically, socially, and environmentally.
In 2020, I joined a group of passionate and committed people who could see beyond either simply saving an airport or property development priorities. We collectively created and socialised the Kapiti Air Urban vision to stimulate a conversation about the future of one of Kāpiti’s most significant community assets. Its multiuse potential would benefit a wide number of stakeholders whilst at the same time presenting a pathway to address historical wrongs and restoring mana whenua.
There is no doubt a great need for affordable contemporary housing on the Kāpiti Coast to meet current and future needs, but this is only one dimension where the region needs to improve its performance. An increasing population expects transport infrastructure to connect nationally; our rangatahi need valuable employment opportunities; we must respond to environmental pressures and look to how we can sustainably build a thriving community.
Recent long-term planning by the Council has identified our population to grow by 30,000 plus in the next 15 years. Some of this must come from intensification around transport, social and commercial hubs, and other opportunities have been identified as 'green and brown field' developments along the Coast that meet our requirements. The airport could revert to housing, but we have determined it is possible to develop 1000-3500 dwellings and retain the airport as fundamental infrastructure to attract and retain people and business as part of a unique Kāpiti Coast value proposition.
Aviation is under pressure to transform in response to carbon reduction challenges, not withstanding other issues associated with pandemic implications on travel and tourism. Our geography and demographic distribution lend themselves to short hall regional electric aircraft–waka rererangi connecting whanau across Aotearoa. Runway size is ideal for frequent smaller aircraft flights, such as the 19-seater Heart Aviation model, of which hundreds have been ordered by airlines around the world, where air travel is a more sustainable option than point-to-point road or rail. Imagine more frequent flights, to more locations, with substantial noise reduction, using clean energy. Sounds Air is already embarking on this.
In our region, over 90% of jobs are in service industries such as residential care, retail, and tourism, whilst many locals commute to Wellington. There are a small number of local businesses offering STEM (science, technology, engineering, maths) careers that are fundamental to a more productive economy, higher remuneration, and the future of sectors such as food, agriculture, healthcare and energy. A functioning airport supports businesses that need to connect with local and international markets and customers, regardless of the power of Zoom, as people work with people. Let’s realise the potential of our mokopuna.
The airport itself will catalyse technology businesses associated with the aviation sector. Avionics is not just about a flying aircraft. Avionics ranges from propulsion to composite materials, simulators to autonomous navigation, artificial intelligence for aerial survey of land and sea flora and fauna, and software design and development for a myriad of applications.
New Zealand is a leader in Aerospace industries, with the government as a strong enabler and supporter. We have proven accelerators and incubators across the country that can be replicated on the Kāpiti Coast.
Climate change is here. Solutions will come from cultural change, regulatory thresholds and technology innovation. We have an opportunity to be part of the solution, and, in fact, take a leading role. At the recent HiTech Awards, Prime Minister Jacinda Adern noted that “By 2040, the growing NZ tech sector is set to create 137,000 new additional jobs for women plus 93,000 new additional new jobs for Māori and 48,000 new additional jobs for Pacific Islanders. All with an average salary that now exceeds $100,000! Not only lifting Aotearoa’s society and economy, but also by producing not just good tech, but tech that is good for the world."
I know a number of entrepreneurs and global company founders that live on the Kāpiti Coast. Many have won awards–such as at HiTech–but most don’t have their business based here due to a lack of local capability, a lack of connectivity, and a lack of capital. All of these are easier to access if there is a compelling vision and commitment to make it happen. Let’s co-create a vision as a community that takes what is considered by the current owners to be a liability and turn it into a significant asset for the benefit of all.
The Kāpiti Air Urban vision could be the start of a significant social enterprise that creates economic, social and environmental impact. This is what those investing in a bright future are getting behind.
Important dates for our region:
● Friday 16 September - voting for local councillor candidates opens.
● 12 pm Saturday 8 October - voting for local councillor candidates closes.