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.

 

 

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.

 

Annual Report 

We also 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 leads Whanganui & Partners and heads the agency's communications with the Board, Whanganui District Council, and the public. Hannah is responsible for guiding Whanganui & Partners' strategic direction and supporting the team to achieve at a high level. 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. Hannah is Board Chair of the Whanganui District Employment Training Trust and a Board Member of Economic Development New Zealand, and a Board Member of Sport Whanganui.

Nilesh Prasad

Administration Manager

Nilesh's role is integral to the smooth running of Whanganui & Partners. 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.

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.

Suzanne Hepi

Strategic Lead - Business

Suz works directly with local business owners and sole traders to help them achieve their business goals. She advises on new business ideas, staffing, location, product development, markets and more. Suz initiates programmes to engage and support the business community and to attract businesses and investment to Whanganui. Suz has iwi/hapū affiliatons with Ngāpuhi, Waikato-Tainui, Tuwharetoa, Ngāti Maniapoto, Ngāti Whitikaupeka, Te Āti Haunui-a-Pāparangi, Ngai Tukairangi and Ngāti Pahauwera. Suz formally worked at Massey and has extensive experience in research and mentoring. She is also on the Kellogg Rural Leaders Programme.

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.

Simon Putan

Business Growth Advisor

Simon helps get new businesses off the ground. Simon has more than ten years of 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.

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.

Jonathan Sykes

Strategic Lead - Marketing

Jonathan oversees the promotion of Whanganui as well as managing our event fund. He ensures Whanganui's profile continues to be raised positively and meaningfully and builds Whanganui's reputation as a destination and its strength of brand. 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.

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

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 Manager

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 returning 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.

Madison Powers

Project Manager - Tourism

This role works with the Strategic Lead - Visitor Industries in delivering important projects supporting sustainable tourism and tourism product development. The Project Manager - Tourism communicates with multiple agency partners, stakeholders and the public. Madison was formerly held a Marketing Executive contract for Whanganui & Partners and has local body government experience in media management, marketing and promotions.

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.

Lou Tyson Walker

On leave until June 2023

Lou is currently on parental leave. As 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 to reach their aspirations.

Tim Easton

On leave until September 2023

Tim is currently on a year-long sabbatical related to his involvement in the Reserve Forces. 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Phillip Bedford

Phillip Bedford is a former 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.

Michelle Caldwell

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

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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