A city with “strategic creativity”
The designation confirms the direction our city is taking – Whanganui District Council’s Leading Edge philosophy – by encouraging partnerships, promoting connectivity, championing innovative approaches and safeguarding cultural heritage and natural resources.
Being New Zealand’s City of Design places us in an important position of leadership, and ensures collaboration and education remain paramount in Whanganui’s creative direction.
While design underpins Whanganui’s heritage, it is also shaping the city’s future through major civic developments and a cluster of smaller commercial and community-led initiatives. The rebuilding and extension of the Sarjeant Gallery is an anchor project for significant growth in arts tourism, demonstrating a commitment to creativity unrivalled in regional NZ.
An Eco Tourism Hub is in development, highlighting local Māori design and river tourism. Heritage buildings and urban spaces are being preserved and reactivated at an increasing pace.
The creativity and environment strands of Whanganui’s Leading Edge strategy provide the conceptual underpinning for its new status as a City of Design. Making Whanganui Visible, the regeneration strategy for the CBD, uses placemaking and design to build a thriving centre and a unique local identity. The city’s Climate Change Strategy emphasises the sustainable preservation of built and natural resources.
The UNESCO decision follows close examination of Whanganui’s engagement with local communities and visitors through festivals and events such as the Whanganui Walls street art festival; Lights on Bikes, a family-friendly parade of the city’s growing sustainable transport fleet; and Artists Open Studios, the largest and longest running arts trail event in New Zealand.
It is also based on recognition of a solid foundation of education providers, including the UCOL Whanganui School of Creative Industries which is the direct inheritor of a tradition of overlapping art and design teaching which stretches back to the founding of the Wanganui Technical College in 1892. At street level, the Whanganui Walls youth mentor program supports budding designers who are guided by professional mural artists.