DOC hikes Kapiti Island fees to increase returns

Kapiti Island visitor charges are set to rise as the Conservation Department "commercialises" the nature reserve tourist attraction.

A rise in DOC landing permit and access fees from February 1 will take the cost of a trip to the island for a family of four from $190 now to about $300.

DOC has increased the permitted number of visitors to the island to 100 at Rangatira Pt and 60 at the North End, as it hands over online bookings, guided talks and tours to five tourism operators.

Until now, there have been only two licensed operators: Kapiti Marine Charter and Kapiti Tours.

Guide Jackie Elliot said it was a concern that ordinary families might be unable to afford to visit Kapiti Island now, and "miss out on this iconic visitor experience on their own doorstep".

Under the new regime, four of the operators would ferry people to the island in boats and the fifth would offer transfers by helicopter.

Access fees would be waived for school groups on educational trips.

DOC said it was processing concession applications from tour operators with the aim of offering a one-stop-shop booking process.

"DOC is taking a more commercial perspective in its partnership with commercial entities.

"This means DOC expects those who are benefiting from operating on public conservation land to pay for the value gained from the experience.

"Kapiti Island is a unique island sanctuary with a very high quality conservation experience and DOC is looking for a return which can then be reinvested in further conservation."

Combined landing permit and access fees will rise to $25 an adult and $12.50 a child, plus GST.

This means the cost of a day trip by boat from Paraparaumu will increase from $71 for an adult to about $105, and from $41 to about $55 for a child, according to Kapiti Marine Charter owner Ross Leger, who has been ferrying people to the island for 26 years.

About $30 from each visitor would go towards DOC work on the island, he said.

All new operators will have to adhere to new biosecurity guidelines, which will be monitored, and DOC is in discussions with Kapiti Coast District Council, local businesses and iwi on plans for a new "departure lounge" on the mainland to further increase biosecurity.

The Dominion Post