Plan for gi­ant float­ing paua

Kapiti Observer - - FRONT PAGE - JOEL MAXWELL

They were a dis­trict look­ing for an iden­tity.

He was a man with ideas, who once blew up a frigate to cre­ate a div­ing at­trac­tion.

To­gether, they could make a gi­ant float­ing paua with a glass bot­tom floor, that would put them all on the map.

For­mer Welling­to­nian of the Year Marco Zee­man has re­vealed a new con­cept for his home in Kapiti – an off­shore paua build­ing that would float off Para­pa­raumu Beach and act as a vis­i­tor cen­tre for nearby Kapiti Island.

The paua cen­tre would be­come a tourist at­trac­tion in its own right, with some vis­i­tors choos­ing to go on to the island, Zee­man said.

It would have a pol­ished paua fin­ish in­side and out. The build­ing would be built in Taranaki’s ship­yards and could be towed by sea down the coast, he said.

‘‘Once it was put in po­si­tion, rocks could be put around it to cre­ate a reef, and po­ten­tially it could have a glass bot­tom and [there] could be snorkelling off it.’’

‘‘Walk­ing along the beach, I was think­ing what would work, and thought paua, be­cause of its shape would cre­ate the build­ing: un­like a pipi, which is a flat thing.’’ Vis­i­tors could be fer­ried to the struc­ture on am­phibi­ous ves­sels. ‘‘With the qual­ity of other fa­cil­i­ties be­ing built around the coun­try such as the ... soon-to-be built Hun­dert­wasser Cen­tre in North­land, I be­lieve a truly iconic build­ing is needed for Kapiti.’’

So far, it was a con­cept and Zee­man was not sure how much it might cost – but po­ten­tially be­tween $20 mil­lion and $30m.

Zee­man is no stranger to pulling off dif­fi­cult projects - he was be­hind the six-year mis­sion to scut­tle the 113-me­tre frigate, HMNZS Welling­ton, off Island Bay in 2005 to be­come a div­ing reef.

Kapiti Coast has searched for its eco­nomic iden­tity for decades - now fac­ing nearly $2 bil­lion worth of new ex­press­way by­pass­ing the dis­trict’s towns. Past ef­forts in­cluded turn­ing Otaki into a clean tech­nol­ogy hub, pitch­ing the dis­trict as a re­tire­ment-home mecca, and turn­ing Para­pa­raumu Beach into a gate­way to Kapiti Island.

Zee­man said his con­cept would avoid a squeeze on avail­able land on the shore­line.

Kapiti Coast mayor K Gu­runathan said there was an ‘‘op­por­tu­nity’’ for a cen­tre at the beach.

‘‘We’re open for spec­tac­u­lar ideas, blue-sky think­ing – not a prob­lem – but then the ratepay­ers wear it.’’

Kapiti Coast Dis­trict Coun­cil was al­ready look­ing to slow down spend­ing on build­ings and equip­ment, he said.

Strat­egy and plan­ning group man­ager Sarah Steven­son said the coun­cil wel­comed Zee­man’s en­thu­si­asm but the coun­cil was ‘‘not in a po­si­tion to sup­port such a project’’. She said the coun­cil was look­ing at long-term plans for a vis­i­tor cen­tre at Para­pa­raumu Beach.

Build the paua and they will come: Marco Zee­man’s idea of a gi­ant off­shore paua cen­tre. Above, Zee­man, and be­low left, his project to con­vert a frigate into a reef.

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