Whanganui - Moving Forward

In the last 2 years, the property prices in Wanganui have been rising. Investors from Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch are appreciating the increasing rental yields. First home buyers are encouraged by the potential capital growth.

These investments and big life decision also come with direct and opportunity costs. Wanganui has very high rates. There is no promise of a job. A lot of people moved out in 2012-2013 in favour of Australia and bigger New Zealand cities. Young people wanted the nightlife and the activities.  A lot of businesses closed down.

The Wanganui Council under Annette Main tried to invest in their lowest hanging fruits:
  1. Enhance the Art Scene 
  2. Invest in connectivity (Wifi, Fibre)
  3. Encourage youth to be part of the digital industry
  4. Support the small businesses and organizations like the Wanganui Chamber of Commerce to provide mentoring and networking opportunities to small businesses
To be fair, for a very tight budget, these moves are just practical. Unfortunately, Annette inherited a waste water problem too big to handle and rate payers incur the costs. The flooding of Anzac Parade in 2015 devastated properties. So instead of focusing on commercial growth, local government was yet again met with "putting the fire off first" operational problems.

Is it really finally turning around this 2017 - just by mere market forces?

I repeat, there is no guarantee that you will have a job once you move to Wanganui. However if you are entrepreneurial, Wanganui presents an amazing opportunity. Already there are several digital companies setting up offices in Wanganui. Co-working spaces like Hive & Co along Victoria Avenue is a step up to help the small businesses. AirBnBs provide extra income to homeowners. Cafes are competitive and continue to give Wanganui a touristy, upbeat vibe.

Wanganui is a very pretty town. I used to appreciate the multiple flower baskets hanging from boutique shops in Victoria avenue. It has beautiful beaches and gardens. It is strategically positioned.  It is a 2-hr drive to the Whakapapa Ski Fields.  It is less than 3 hours from Wellington.

The city needs a stronger, ballsier and more strategic leadership.  It needs to form stronger alliances with neighboring regions to promote regional growth. 

For my specific industry (IT/technology), I'd like to see things happen.

There needs to be consistent and monitored investment in digital training to encourage unemployed people to start online businesses. I see a lot of councils investing in digital training, yearly, occasionally. I see banks sponsoring similar type of training as well. However staging one basic introduction training a year is not going to cut it. The technologies move so fast even so-called experts can not keep up. There has to be progress monitoring after training. There has to be accountability and commitment to the process. Yes I want the trainers and the leaders of digital initiatives to be accountable.  I want them to make sure their trainees are doing very well on the web measured in terms of profit not merely by website traffic and Facebook likes.

There has to be investment in people, young and old, to gather around in their own time to discuss technology and help mentor each other. The foundations have already been laid out, or at least started by the previous Mayor Annette Main. Investment in technology needs to continue if Wanganui wants to stay relevant. Technology attracts younger people to build their own businesses. It helps established business owners to reach new markets. It would make people want to live the relaxed country lifestyle in Wanganui and yet make money as if they work in bigger NZ cities.  Mothers would be able to spend more time with their children at home and make money on the side selling their art, crafts or skills.  Retirees would be able to make extra income selling their knowledge and skills online and leave an inspiring legacy.  Technological business solutions are often free and open source. Technological training should be customised per industry so more people would know how to apply it.

My bias towards technological and digital education is obvious. I feel very strongly about using education to build an entrepreneurial and growth culture. It's a big commitment. But in the age of Artificial Intelligence, learning is a requirement.

Author: LVD
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