Whanganui & Partners: our economic development agency

Our mission is to lead and drive opportunity through business, education, and lifestyle.

We promote Whanganui as a destination to live, visit, work, study and invest. Our activities include supporting new and existing businesses, bringing events to Whanganui and providing the latest economic data, analysis and commentary on the Whanganui district.

We ensure visitors are informed, impressed and ready to return.

We aspire to keep Whanganui prosperous and ensure it is a sought-after visitor destination

We are a Council-Controlled Organisation. Our operations are overseen by our Board and management staff, while our funding and strategic direction is decided on by Whanganui District Council. Our Statement of Intent is updated annually and sets out the strategic direction for the organisation, reflecting the expectations of our stakeholders, and we produce an Annual Report which measures our outcomes.

Meet the team

Our Board and management team is made up of friendly and experienced people who have a passion for seeing Whanganui thrive.

The Team

Hannah Middleton

Chief Executive

Hannah is on a period of parental leave from September 2021 - March 2022. Hannah has experience leading the agency’s International and Capability direction. She has a strong understanding across key sectors and has well established relationships with industry, local and central government agencies, and across the broader Manawatū-Whanganui region. She also holds roles on the Whanganui District Employment Training Trust and the Interim Regional Skills Leadership Group.

Jonathan Sykes

Acting Chief Executive

Jonathan heads the development of Whanganui & Partners' strategic vision and communicates our work to the Board, partners, Whanganui District Council, and stakeholders. He also oversees the promotion of Whanganui as well as managing our event fund. He ensures Whanganui's profile continues to be raised positively and meaningfully. Jonathan has two decades of marketing management experience through managerial positions at AXA and Rank Group in the UK and more recently as Head of Marketing at UCOL.

Nilesh Prasad

Executive Assistant & Administration Manager

Nilesh is the first person you’ll see when you visit the Innovation Quarter. She makes sure our team is operating efficiently and with focus. Her organisational and administrative skills ensure we get the most impact out of our work and she is a wealth of knowledge on all things relating to Whanganui District Council and local body government processes.

Tim Easton

Strategic Lead – Business

Tim works directly with local business owners and sole traders to help them achieve their business goals. He advises on new business ideas, staffing, location, product development, markets and more. Tim initiates programmes to engage and support the business community and to attract businesses and investment to Whanganui.

Simon Putan

Business Growth Advisor

Simon helps get new businesses off the ground. Simon has had more than ten years' experience in the field of business start-ups and operates several businesses of his own. He is passionate about business growth, increasing business efficiencies and helping business owners realise their potential. Simon regularly runs Start-up Workshops to help entrepreneurs get their ideas off the ground.

Colleen Sheldon

Strategic Lead – Agribusiness

Colleen works with agribusiness stakeholders to develop strategies and initiatives that will develop our region into a food and fibre powerhouse. Colleen knows the rural sector through experience as both a regional councillor and a dairy farm owner. She regularly facilitates sessions to help rural people increase their profitablility, add to their knwoledge base and connect with those within and associated with the agricultural sector.

Lou Tyson Walker

Strategic Lead – Capability

Lou works closely with education providers and industry to make sure that the right training and educational opportunities are available to build the skills that our economy needs. Lou, of Te Atihaunui-a-Pāpārangi recently returned to Whanganui after 10 years in Tāmaki Makaurau (Auckland) where she completed a Bachelor of Business Studies. Lou has experience as a television presenter, HR business partner for Māori Television, and operations manager at Ngā Tāngata Tiaki o Whanganui. She is passionate about supporting iwi, hapū and all Whanganui communities reach their aspirations.

Paul Chaplow

Strategic Lead – Visitor Industries

Paul works with our tourism operators and regional partners to lift the value of the visitor economy in Whanganui. He produces and contributes to publications and guides promoting Whanganui and leads Whanganui's Regional Tourism Organisation. Paul wants visitors to love their time in Whanganui and wants to see the visitor industry thrive, and our local economy do so along with it. Paul has years of experience working in the tourism industry in New Zealand and internationally. Paul also has line management of the i-SITE team

Dr Emma Bugden

Strategic Lead - Creative Industries & Arts

Emma works directly with artists and creative workers to make Whanganui a place where creatives thrive. She has been working in the arts for two decades, as an artist, consultant, curator and advocate. She is deeply involved in the local arts community and has been a member of the Public Art Steering Group for the Whanganui District Council, the Keynote Speaker for the CoLab glass conferencein 2019 and co-founder of the Whanganui Small Publishers Group.

Rebecca Black

Senior Communications Advisor

Rebecca works to promote Whanganui across key media platforms and manages the agency's communications. She also operates social media for Whanganui & Partners' and Discover Whanganui. She shapes the content the agency produces to raise Whanganui's profile as an ideal place to live, work and visit. Rebecca has extensive media experience in editing, journalism, social media moderation and newspaper production.

Billie Lawson

i-SITE Whanganui Visitor Centre Supervisor

Billie is responsible for overseeing the running of our busy i-SITE. She is an expert on what to do, see, and where to stay in Whanganui. She makes sure visitors have the very best experience possible when they come to the i-SITE and leave with the intention of returing to Whanganui again. Billie has been working in the visitor industry for most of her career and is proud of the i-SITE's overwhelmingly positive user feedback.

The Board

Pahia Turia

Pahia Turia is from the Ngā Wairiki, Ngāti Apa, Whanganui and Ngā Rauru Kī Tahi whakapapa. He has been involved in Māori community development in the areas of health, justice, education and social housing for a number of years. Pahia holds a number of directorships on boards throughout the country. He and his wife Njela own local businesses and have a keen interest in residential and commercial property.

Susanne Clay

Susanne is a commercial advisor for innovation, growth and strategy consulting and Director of Gecko Advisory Limited. Susanne has held or holds positions in entrepreneurial management, commercialisation or governance with Wool Industry Research Ltd, NZ Wool Innovation Ltd, Croplogic Ltd, Kahne Limited, Living Cell Technologies Ltd, and internationally Minnesota Biosciences Council, Algos Therapeutics, Inc., and Cargill Inc.

Stephen Lee

Stephen Lee is currently General Manager of Manuka Farming NZ Ltd. Prior to this he held positions in foreign affairs, trade and marketing. He holds a Bachelor of Commerce in Accounting and Marketing from the University of Canterbury. In his current role he reports to the Board of Directors of Manuka Farming. He has also held the position of Chair of the Shepherd’s Arms Foundation, a charitable trust which runs a children’s home in the Philippines.

Phillip Bedford

Phillip Bedford is currently employed as the CEO of the New Zealand International Commercial Pilot Academy. Prior to this he was Commanding Officer at the base headquarters at Ohakea. He has an MBA (with distinction) from Massey University and was involved in the initial working groups relating to the Regional Growth Study, which was then formalised as Accelerate 25, the Manawatu-Whanganui Economic Action Plan. He has held executive level management positions and served in governance roles including as a Trustee of the RNZAF Welfare Fund, Chair Base Leadership Group Ohakea and as a Trustee of the Carncot Independent School.

Gaelle Deighton

Gaelle has previously been a resident and has relocated back to Whanganui as she has family in the region. Gaelle has an MBA from Southern Cross University, Australia and was previously CE of Manukau City’s economic development agency. She brings with her a wealth of experience in economic development and in-depth knowledge of central and local government processes and policies in economic development, employment, community and business development. Gaelle has strong governance experience and currently holds trustee positions with two community organisations delivering social services to their communities.

Anne-Marie Broughton

Anne-Marie was born and raised in the Whanganui region and has extensive experience in sustainability, innovation, business development, management and growth. An experienced Maori Land Development Consultant, Anne-Marie served on the Ministerial Advisory Panel for the Maori Land Service in 2017. She also served on the Taranaki-Whanganui Conservation Board for six years and was the Kaiwhakahaere (General Manager) of the Ngaa Rauru Kiitahi Post Settlement Governance Entity – Te Kaahui o Rauru for over five years.

Our Partners

Our relationships form an intrinsic part of our culture and how we work as an organisation. Along with our partners, we help with the facilitation of guidance or expertise. We lead in consultation with a range of partners and stakeholders and work with them to realise the full potential of Whanganui.

Our partnerships lead to better outcomes for our businesses and community.

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