Latest on Te Pūwaha, Whanganui's port revitalisation project

Published on August 28, 2020


Whanganui’s port revitalisation project, called Te Pūwaha (the outlet or river mouth), will be the first true community-led exercise for management of a project under the new legal status of the Whanganui River as Te Awa Tupua.

Te Pūwaha is a collaborative effort involving Whanganui Iwi and four other groups invested in the project: Whanganui District Council, Horizons Regional Council, Q-West Boat Builders and the Whanganui District Employment Training Trust.

Gerard Albert, Chair of Ngā Tāngata Tiaki o Whanganui says, “Te Pūwaha Project provides a unique opportunity to ensure the design of the project is completed in accordance with Tupua te Kawa, the innate values of Te Awa Tupua enshrined in law. Under a Te Awa Tupua model, there are greater opportunities for community engagement over the proposed work than ever before. The emphasis for community engagement is all at the front end of the process rather than at the back end in a resource consent-led model.”

The project, which aims to secure the Whanganui port as a community asset for the next 50 years and beyond, is at its initial phases working through a review of design parameters. The hapū are working with Te Pūwaha and the Councils, and community input will soon follow, focusing on Castlecliff, but including port users in general, prior to lodging resourcing consents.

In line with the community focus, two additional appointments have been made to the Te Pūwaha Governance Board to reflect community interests. These appointments are Jock Lee of Castlecliff and Kahureremoa Aki of Whanganui, who are both passionate about upholding hapū, iwi and community values through Tupua te Kawa.

Jock Lee says, “The project approach aims to include community as we work collectively with the awa as our focus, improving our collective wellbeing, and enhancing economic and recreational opportunities for our people.”

In July 2020 the Regional Economic Development Minister Hon Shane Jones announced a $26.75 million Provincial Growth Fund investment for the port, which forms part of a total $50 million investment across the four partners. Port infrastructure improvements are now underway.

Rosemary Fletcher, Whanganui District Council Project Manager says, “To mitigate potential impact on heritage values, wherever possible, historic materials from structures within the port precinct will be repurposed or restored.”

She says the Council is currently engaged in repairing and rebuilding the historic wharves at the port and there is significant community interest in some of the older buildings located in the area.

“There are currently no plans to remove the Victory Shed,” she says, “But the adjacent warehouse known as the ‘Red Shed’ will have to be deconstructed.”

The Red Shed is likely to have been constructed in the 1910’s and has always been associated with storage, railway activity and industry at the port.

Rosemary Fletcher says, “We have investigated upgrading this building, but the prohibitive cost involved in making it functional and compliant has ruled out that option.

“The riverside edge of this building is supported by the wharf seawall, which is in poor condition and nearing the end of its useful life due to time-related decay of the timbers. The original timber floor has been removed which significantly reduces the strength of the walls.”

She says deconstruction of the Red Shed will enable construction of a new marine precinct, as envisaged for the Te Pūwaha port revitalisation.

“Any materials able to be recovered will be stored at the port with the intention of incorporating them into future elements of the port revitalisation.

“This work process is to be undertaken with great care. There will be documentation of the structure in situ and we will be seeking input from relevant stakeholders.”

Enquiries about Te Pūwaha can be e-mailed to


Te Pūwaha is a collaborative partnership between Whanganui iwi and four other groups invested in the development of the Whanganui port: Whanganui District Council, Horizons Regional Council, Q-West Boat Builders and the Whanganui District Employment Training Trust.

Under the Te Awa Tupua status at law, a set of innate values called Tupua Te Kawa, now guides all decision making in respect of the Whanganui River. These values can broadly be described as the metaphysical and indivisible nature of the River; the intrinsic and inalienable place of hapu and iwi as the River; and community empowerment via collective obligation to work collaboratively for the River’s benefit.

Te Pūwaha – the projects

Supported by Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) investment in the Whanganui port, Te Pūwaha will oversee four key projects:

  1. Port infrastructure project Whanganui District Council will upgrade wharves, develop marine infrastructure and improve dredging capabilities. This will enhance the local boat building and marine industry. 


  2. Lower river training structures Horizons Regional Council will repair moles and other river training structures that control the alignment of the lower Whanganui River. This will protect nearby developments and critical city infrastructure from flooding, and provide marine access from the sea to the port. 


  3. Q-West Boat Builders upgrade A revamp will establish a purpose-built facility and 300 tonne vessel hoist for new builds, repairs, and maintenance services within the port, while employing 30 staff and creating an estimated 80 additional jobs with neighbouring businesses.


  4. The Port Employment Precinct (PEP) This training facility will be established and run by the Whanganui District Employment Training Trust. The PEP will connect local people with jobs created by the port redevelopment and facilitate on-the-job and classroom-based training.

Te Pūwaha – the benefits

Community wellbeing

  • Saves 125 existing jobs in the marine, engineering and coastal freight
  • Improves the aesthetic appearance of the area, making it attractive to current and new users, creating jobs and training opportunities for local people.
  • Creates new employment opportunities as the total number of people employed within the project during the initial three years (directly and through contractors) will exceed 250 (mainly new) jobs due to the size and nature of the works. The Marine Precinct, Coastal Shipping, Fisheries and direct support businesses will generate more than 500 jobs by year ten.
  • Provides specialist training, retraining and upskilling of all port activities and users through the Te Ara Mahi programme – located at the port.

Economic opportunity

  • Enables greater use of the Whanganui Port for a mix of commercial and recreational activities.
  • Replaces and repairs 400 metres of wharves and builds on-shore infrastructure supporting a wide range of commercial activities. Repairs and replaces (man-made and natural) lower river structures ensuring stabilisation and storm protection of the completed port asset.
  • Te Pūwaha secures the Whanganui port as a community asset for the next 50 years and beyond.
  • Values the port’s heritage and authenticity. Wherever possible, materials from structures within the port precinct will repurposed or restored.
  • Creates one of New Zealand’s very few environmentally responsible vessel servicing and maintenance operations.



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