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Tales of two i-sites

information-waikanae

by Norma McCallum
We’ll do it ourselves was the watchword from a group of Waikanae volunteers when the Waikanae information office closed. Once part of the Waikanae library, when the dreaded mould closed the library the small popular information office, run by volunteers, disappeared.

No room, no room, said the Kapiti Coast District Council, when the temporary pop up library was set up.

But did the locals despair? Not for a moment. And so we now have Information Waikanae – sponsored by local businesses, run by volunteers on a shoe string and keen to tell you anything you might like to know about this- New Zealand’s Most Beautiful Town 2015.

Thanks to Eddie Winkel of the Professional Real Estate Office on the corner of Mahara Place and Main Road, right opposite the rail station, the office is smart, efficient and friendly – ready for summer visitors, newly arrived Kapiti Coasters and anyone who just wants a chat about the town. Eddie offered desk and display space and use of a phone.

Wendy Bennett, Coordinator of the group, was cheered to find that almost all the volunteers who had put their immense knowledge of the town on the back burner were willing to become an independent entity and give it their all for Waikanae.

“We did have a card index – many of us are not of the IT generation – but it somehow got lost in the general library decommission. So we have started all over again. Local clubs, sports clubs, flower arrangers, choirs – they are all calling in and giving us their details to get our little Luddite card index going again! And of course all the volunteers have lived here for many many years and know all the little details about the town.’

So hats off to the locals of the Information Waikanae office. Typical kiwi do-it-yourself attitude. The office is open Monday-Friday 10a.m. – 3p.m.

i-sites-mural

by Dave Burgess for WREDA
The upgraded Wellington i-SITE – the front door to the region – is welcoming visitors again after 12 weeks of being remodelled. Located at the bottom of Cuba Street in front of the Michael Fowler Centre, the WellingtonNZ-managed i-SITE moved to its current location after its previous space in Civic Square was compromised by the 2016 Kaikoura earthquake.

What was a pokey interior has been transformed with people now able to discover the gems Wellington has to offer in a public space reconfigured to four times its previous size.

Designed by Studio Pacific Architecture and Homegrown Creative, it will provide a unique, streamlined Wellington experience for visitors, and locals looking to buy event tickets.

WellingtonNZ General Manager David Perks says the i-SITE welcomes an estimated 350,000 people each year as they look to make the most of their Wellington stay, or book tickets to local events.

“We have pulled out the stops to ensure the new i-SITE helps tell the Wellington story in an exciting, accessible way. The entire visitor experience at the i-SITE will be far better than anything we’ve offered before. The aim is to inspire people to find and do great things in Wellington, to entice them to stay longer or plan a return visit.”

Central to the i-SITE’s Wellington flavour is a mural by local artist Xoë Hall (above) which pays tribute to the Māori legend of Te Whanganui-a-Tara (Wellington Harbour) and the two Taniwha, Ngake and Whātaitai who called the harbour their home.*

Weta Workshop’s life-sized Gandalf model – or selfie-bait – missing from the i-SITE since 2016 has also made a return.

Previously, the i-SITE only sold Wellington postcards and stamps. That range has been boosted with the inclusion of t-shirts, tea towels, chocolate, socks, cardboard models of Wellington icons, the Wellington in your Pocket guidebook, tote bags, greeting cards, notebooks and pens. Products are largely designed and made in Wellington.

Visitor registration technology means those looking for tourist information and event tickets are separated and dealt with at the appropriate station. Instead of waiting in a queue, they can wander about looking for great Wellington things explore in an i-SITE organised thematically – Find Your Wild (nature), Eat Your Heart Out (dining), Spark Your Creativity, Take A Day Trip, Stay With Us (accommodation) and Find Your Way (transport and maps).

The i-SITE has been operating to a limited capacity out of temporary accommodation on Manners St for three months. Mr Perks says this, coupled with the unexpected move to the current i-SITE location in 2016, created challenges.

“The i-SITE staff have done a magnificent job in trying circumstances over the past three years and I know they’re eagerly anticipating the opening of the new, improved facility.”

* Ngake and Whātaitai are depicted swimming in the wild and windswept hair/waves of Hinemoana, atua (goddess) of the waves and ocean surface. The sweeping waves of her hair also represent Wellington’s wind.

i-SITE opening hours
Monday-Friday 8.30am-5pm
Weekends 9am-5pm

WREDA, the council-owned Wellington Regional Economic Development Agency, has renamed itself as WellingtonNZ.