Whanganui & Partners: our economic development agency

Our mission is to lead and drive opportunity through business, education, and lifestyle. We are proud to have led the application to have Whanganui recognised as a UNESCO City of Design, and to manage the designation on behalf of the city.

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.



Statement of Intent

Our Statement of Intent is updated annually and sets out the strategic direction for the organisation, reflecting the expectations of our stakeholders.


Performance Report 

We also produce a Performance Report that measures our outcomes.


W&P Newsletters

Catch up on our previous Whanganui & Partners newsletters. We send our newsletter to our mailing list every three to four weeks. Subscribe here.

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

Jonathan Sykes

Chief Executive

Jonathan leads Whanganui & Partners and heads the agency's engagement with its Board, Whanganui District Council, and the public. He is responsible for guiding Whanganui & Partners' strategic direction and supporting the team to achieve at a high level. 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.

Dr Emma Bugden

Strategic Lead - Creative Industries

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 conference in 2019 and co-founder of the Whanganui Small Publishers Group.

Tim Easton

Strategic Lead - Business

As 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.

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 involvement with the business side of dairy farming. She regularly facilitates sessions to help rural people increase their profitability, add to their knowledge base and connect with those within and associated with the agricultural sector.

Rach Hoskin

Strategic Lead - Capability

Rach 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. Rach loves taking on big challenges and is passionate about helping people realise their potential. Prior to joining Whanganui & Partners, Rach held the title of Manager of Sustainable Funding and Innovation at Te Manawa in Palmerston North. She has also worked for UCOL Whanganui and was pivotal in the establishment of the Te Pae Tata - Ruapehu Community Learning & Tech Hub, in Ruapehu.

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.

Rebecca Black

Strategic Lead - Marketing

Rebecca oversees the promotion of Whanganui as well as managing our event fund. She ensures Whanganui's profile continues to be raised positively and meaningfully and builds Whanganui's reputation as a destination to visit, live, study and invest. Rebecca also leads the agency's media engagement. She has extensive media experience in editing, journalism, social media moderation and newspaper production.

Ben Blain

Business Growth Advisor

Ben provides support to a range of businesses in Whanganui, Ruapehu and Rangitīkei through the Regional Business Partners network. Ben ensures our businesses capability is amplified, our sectors are connected (locally, nationally and internationally) and business people are engaged in development and innovation opportunities.

Billie Lawson

isite Whanganui Visitor Centre Manager

Billie is responsible for overseeing the running of our busy isite. 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 isite and leave with the intention of returning to Whanganui again. Billie has been working in the visitor industry for most of her career and is proud of the isite's overwhelmingly positive user feedback.

Charlotte White

Business Support Administrator

Charlotte is responsible for providing day-to-day operational, financial and administrative support to the Whanganui & Partners team. Charlotte works closely with the Executive Assistant & Administration Manager to make sure Whanganui & Partners' administration runs smoothly.

Karyn Crawley

Executive Assistant & Administration Manager

Karyn's role is integral to the smooth running of Whanganui & Partners. She makes sure our team is operating efficiently and with focus. With a background in business management and administration her skills ensure we get the most impact from our work and her oversight enables our success.

The Board

Gaelle Deighton - CHAIR

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 - DEPUTY CHAIR

Anne-Marie was born and raised in the Whanganui region and has extensive experience in sustainability, innovation, business development, management and growth. An experienced Māori Land Development Consultant, Anne-Marie served on the Ministerial Advisory Panel for the Māori 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.

Michelle Caldwell - DIRECTOR

Michelle is Director and Marketing Strategist at Destinate NZ Ltd. She has more than 25 years of experience working in New Zealand tourism, including on iconic destinations and activities such as Huka Jet, Rainbow Springs, and Mt Ruapehu ski fields. Michelle also has more than 10 years of experience in governance roles in the tourism sector. Michelle’s focus is centred on the people who create and seek out the visitor experience. Michelle is highly skilled in marketing, strategic planning, team leadership and relationship building, product and brand development, business development and event management.

Mark Cleaver - DIRECTOR

Mark is CEO of Massey Ventures Ltd, a commercialisation and venture investment business. He has more than 20 years of experience in the research and education sectors and has held a number of governance roles for companies in the agri-tech and robotics fields. Mark is passionate about research and innovation and is the co-founder of Aero Sports Protection Ltd. He has also helped a number of technology-based start-ups become successful businesses. Mark has experience on boards and trusts related to education and disability support. Mark has experience on the board of the former Manawatū economic development agency, Vision Manawatū.

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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