Port Revitalisation Project

Port revitalisation hero image

The revitalisation of Whanganui Port, located at the mouth of Whanganui River, is not only important for economic development locally, but to future-proof Whanganui as it continues to grow in population and attract more people who expect modern facilities and protection of unique natural surroundings, such as an historic river port.

In the 2019/20 Annual Plan, the Council decided to bring funding for port redevelopment forward to 2019/20 and to increase it further by $6.2M – giving a total of $12.3M in 2019/20 for infrastructure requirements currently needed for port users. 

This infrastructure includes work on Wharf 1, Wharf 2 and Wharf 3, boat launch infrastructure, dredging tools, building repairs and demolition of derelict structures.

This proposed infrastructure will not only support current marine services and freight services, but encourage potential tenants in similar industries as well as from the seafood harvesting and processing sector to invest.

This funding also takes into consideration the cost to protect the health, well-being and function of the Whanganui River. 

An application has been lodged with the Government's Provincial Growth Fund.

In 2016, the Council received government funding through Accelerate 25, the Whanganui-Manawatū regional growth study, to develop a plan for revitalising the port area. The Whanganui Port Revitalisation Programme is a partnership between Whanganui District Council (the Council), iwi, central government, private businesses and the Whanganui community.

The draft masterplan was developed with public input. 

Draft Masterplan and Maps(PDF, 4MB)

Register your business online

Why is Whanganui Port being developed now?

While the Council has been working steadily on aspects of revitalising Whanganui Port since it was bought back from a private company in 2010, the project was given a $500,000 funding boost by the Government in August 2016 for a detailed masterplan to revitalise Whanganui Port and the port area. The investment was made as part of the Manawatū-Whanganui Economic Action Plan (Accelerate 25) to generate economic development and vitality in our region.

How has the community given its input into this project?

Six reference groups – representing the recreational and community, commercial and industry and education sectors – have met regularly to give their ideas to the Port Revitalisation Programme. The minutes from these meetings are available on our website.

We also asked people what they wanted to see at the port through our Viewpoint Whanganui blog and received a great deal of feedback. 

In late 2016, a draft masterplan(PDF, 5MB) was made available for the public to provide feedback on and we had more than 140 responses. 

We are also asking interested parties to register their interest in relocating to, or starting up, at the port. 

We will let the community know how the Port Revitalisation Programme progresses as we move through important milestones. 

Who is in the Whanganui Port Revitalisation Programme Team?

The team is a mix of marine experts, a skilled project management team and Council staff working in partnership with Whanganui District Council Holdings, iwi, the community and the Government.

How is the port going to be funded? Are you seeking Government funding? Can we sell Council-controlled assets instead of charging more rates in Whanganui?

The port is funded day-to-day through a combination of rates, port revenue and the Harbour Endowment Fund, which belongs to the Council after control of the port and rights to the harbour endowment lease income were bought back from a private port company in September 2010.

Within the port revitalisation the variety of projects and their funding will be assessed on a case-by-case basis. The initial business case will seek investment from private enterprise, central government and the Council. The Council may choose to fund items through harbour endowment loans, rates or asset sales.

Does some of the port land belong to KiwiRail (and not the Harbour Endowment Fund)?

The majority of land shown on the Port Revitalisation Programme draft masterplan is owned by the Council, with only a small strip of KiwiRail land, which goes as far as the Coastguard building. Operationally, the branch railway goes as far west as Gilberd Street by the current Q-West Boat Builders’ premises.

How will roading issues be dealt with to ensure heavy traffic to the port / wharves is mitigated?

There is capacity within existing arterial heavy traffic routes (Taupō Quay, Heads Road and Mosston Road) to handle any growth in traffic that occurs because of the port revitalisation. 

How will potential flooding issues be mitigated?

The immediate port area included in the Port Revitalisation Programme draft masterplan is generally not affected by river flooding. The height of any new infrastructure will be considered to make sure it is well above flood levels.

Outside the area where the port revitalisation is taking place, the Council has been actively working on flood mitigation projects. This includes installing more effective pipework in Heads Road and under the Gilberd Street river stopbank, and a swale on Heads Road(PDF, 103KB) (completed in November 2016).

The $6 million Westbourne / Gonville Stormwater Project will handle stormwater as far back as the intersection of Mill Road and Manuka Street. This project will take three years to complete.

How can we connect the port, which has a long history, to other heritage assets such as the tram, historic buildings, riverboat and other historic transport? What about other ways to promote heritage tourism?

The draft masterplan identifies existing heritage at the port and connects the port basin to Castlecliff (through the Castlecliff Rejuvenation Programme) and the Whanganui Town Centre Regeneration project. We need to take an open-minded approach to ways the existing land and buildings at the port can be used, re-used or developed. The Victory Shed and Red Shed are most likely to be retained to maintain the history and authenticity of the port.

How will the area from the port to Whanganui City Bridge be developed? Can rail be extended past Wharf One? How will rail connections 'marry up' (for example, railway to docks)?

Although the area between the port and Whanganui City Bridge is not within the scope of the Port Revitalisation Programme draft masterplan, this area will continue to accommodate manufacturing and residential use. The Urban Shared Pathway, which runs from Whanganui City Bridge to North Mole, will also continue to be developed in this area.

In the Port Revitalisation Programme draft masterplan the future use of the rail line within the port area has been considered, although there is limited use for rail at Wharf One, primarily because there is insufficient space for large-scale wharf-side sorting and loading areas. Also, the idea of a rail track passing through the proposed marine services area would need to be carefully considered.

The present location of Q-West Boat Builders has been identified within the draft masterplan as a possible future inland port area for a rail terminus, inland port operators, containers, logs, and dry goods. 

Where can people swim / bomb in the river? Is there potential for a saltwater / tidal area? 

The draft masterplan proposes, subject to an approved health and safety plan, a jump / dive platform to the east of the existing boat-launching ramp, although there is scope to move this location as the plan is developed.

There is public support for recreating a port basin that will increase recreational opportunities in the surrounding area.

Re-filling the hole in the basin wall, with the associated expense of initial and ongoing dredging makes it more likely to be a gradually staged longer-term goal.

In the short-to-medium term, the location that has been selected for the possible swim / bomb area is tidal with saltwater. 

Has there been an environmental study / cultural impact report done?

Not at this time but we will undertake cultural impact studies where appropriate when one or more of the initiatives are advanced through to the planning process. 

The history of the area and the interdependencies of the environment and existing buildings have been taken into account when working on the draft masterplan. 

The Recreational and Community Reference Group brought forward a number of ideas on how to make parts of the port area into a place for people to spend time and enjoy.

Pre-consultation for any resource consent will be undertaken with Ngā Tangata Tiaki (the post-settlement governance entity for Whanganui River), iwi and the Department of Conservation.

Some of the proposed development will require resource consents from the Council and/or Horizons Regional Council.

Has there been an economic development impact report undertaken on this project?

Business analyst BERL is undertaking a feasibility study to assess the economic development and community effects. This will need to go to central Government in the first instance, before being released to the public. Both the feasibility study and the draft masterplan are being funded by central government and the Council.

How have iwi / hapū been consulted?

Consultation over the Port Revitalisation Programme has taken place with senior levels of local iwi and Ngā Tāngata Tiaki.                                                    

How does the port area connect with Mountains to Sea Cycle Trail?

The Mountains to Sea Cycle Trail will be extended through and around the port.

What about bypassing the river entirely and building a curved wall from the South Mole to make a bay facing south? This would possibly deflect the coastal drift and leave the entrance deep enough to enter.

The Port Revitalisation Programme Team made an early decision to focus on the land and water area on the north side of the port and the draft masterplan reflects this. 

We know that predominant coastal drift is from the north, with the North Mole and the bar having the most influence on the depths within the river mouth. The Council maintains the port (with minimal dredging) to a depth suitable for all existing users, including recreational boats and the coastal trader Anatoki. 

We have also had a number of enquiries about the concept of extending the North Mole out to sea and creating a 30-degree L-shape to close the river mouth off from the prevailing west to north-west winds and swells.  

The advantage of a structure like this is that it would deal with the issues caused by prevailing winds and seas, but evaluating such a proposal would require investment in modelling and costing. Building it would cost about $100,000 per lineal metre.

A disadvantage is that when lateral sand begins to again drift around the extended structure, the bar would become even more complex and changeable than it is now.

Another factor is that vessels crossing a bar facing south would enter seas closer to side on, rather than bow or stern on, which would be a concern in rougher weather. 

Could the river be re-engineered to pass the airport onto South Beach?

The Port Revitalisation Programme Team has considered, after reviewing previous information and reports, that re-engineering the river was not justified. Instead, for the draft masterplan the group focused on the existing port area. 

A comprehensive study – the Wanganui Port Development Feasibility Report – was completed by the Council in October 1993. 

In the report, in 1993 dollars, a river diversion to sea near Whanganui Airport was estimated to cost $15 million, the port terminals $32 million, the port plan $4.5 million and the new port entrance work $19–26 million, with extensive ongoing bar dredging or a sand-pumping bypass system. 

Natural forces influence the river mouth and Whanganui has a shallow, high-energy coastline that results in lateral drift of sand north and south across the front of the north and south moles of which about 250,000 cubic metres per annum, net, moves north to south.  

The only reason there is not a continuous beach on our coast is because the concentrated river flow scours it out. Diverting the Whanganui River would result in the formation of a beach where the river mouth used to flow. 

On a smaller scale, you can see the natural forces at work and their results by looking at the mouth of the Turakina River in Rangitikei District.

Can you give an update on the Midwest Ferries proposal? Are the Council and Midwest Ferries working together to make this happen?

The Council is supportive of the concept of a ferry service from Whanganui to the top of the South Island. We have been in discussions about this idea with two parties.

The promoter of Midwest Ferries has met with Council representatives regularly for more than two years and the Council has provided Midwest Ferries with information to advance its business proposal.

The Port Revitalisation Programme Team presented its draft masterplan to the promoter of Midwest Ferries in late December 2016. At this time the team explained the reasons its draft masterplan does not follow the Midwest Ferries plan, where much of the port was developed for a multi-berthed ferry terminal. 

The Port Revitalisation Programme Team's view is that a ferry service would most likely start on a much smaller scale than that proposed by Midwest Ferries. Wharf One is well-positioned to accept a small- to medium-size roll-on / roll-off ferry vessel, with land within the port area available for the staging of trucks or cars. 

Expansion of the wharf to the west would allow a second vessel to be berthed in the area if necessary. We acknowledge that further dredging may need to be considered, subject to the vessels chosen by any ferry operator.

While the Council is enthusiastic about the Midwest Ferries initiative, it is an ambitious plan and we are still awaiting detailed information and a comprehensive business proposal from the promoter. 

Will local suppliers be used for the development of the port?

Any required work funded by the Council or the Government will go through a tender process. The Council has a procurement process(PDF, 689KB) that favours local businesses where practical.

How does the masterplan help develop a working commercial port? 

The working area is proposed for wharves one and two at the western end of the port. This is where the coastal trader Anatoki currently berths and where we have proposed a future location for a possible inter-island ferry in the draft masterplan. Additional berthage is shown to the west of Wharf One if wharfage is required for an inter-island ferry or coastal trader. The wharves are in the area of the port where existing water is deeper. 

The ferry terminal currently proposed in the Council's draft masterplan is in the most logical and financially viable location to start a ferry business.

While there will no doubt be changes to the masterplan following the consultation and submission process, the project team will ensure there is sufficient flexibility to provide for Midwest Ferry's future plans. 

Has thought been given to extending the north and south moles a couple of kilometres to improve access?

There is no business justification for extending the current moles further out to sea because there is sufficient water depth to allow all current recreational and commercial vessels to visit the port. An extension of one or two kilometres is extreme and would not be required even if deeper vessels visited the port.

Do you have plans to mitigate the surge (swell)?

Reducing or mitigating the swell has benefits and there are several ways we could look at doing this. The re-creation of a feature on the south side of the river entrance, which was historically used to dissipate some of the wave energy, is being considered in detail. 

This man-made structure on the southern side of the river, known as the Tanea Bank, attracted waves and swell to break on it. Re-creating the bank structure has benefits not just for the proposed marina but also for the busy boat ramp and any public areas within the basin. 

Coastal experts Tonkin + Taylor have been asked to review this and other options as they model lower-river dynamics.

A second option for mitigating the swell is some form of attenuator next to the proposed marina.

Have you considered long-term hydrologic changes to the river flow and associated erosion / deposition areas at the river mouth?  

The Port Revitalisation Programme concept depends on reinstating the river's training wall over time, but the photo of the existing site shows a substantial natural channel ('hole in the basin wall') in the river, right through the proposed basin. 

The Port Revitalisation Programme Team is working with coastal experts Tonkin + Taylor to review options in regard to proposals to close or maintain the existing 'hole in the basin wall'. The hole was opened up in the late 1980s to automatically keep a channel along the front of wharves one, two and three. 

When Tonkin + Taylor has finished its review, the Council will understand how much estimated silt will need to be removed annually to keep the turning basin usable. 

The Council can then elect to keep the wall open or closed at a later date when there is more activity to fund the cost of dredging. The Council agrees that care needs to be taken with every decision within this natural environment.

Will there be enough room for local boaties to launch? What about fishing?

In the draft masterplan the Port Revitalisation Programme Team has considered an expansion of the parking areas for cars and trailers close to the existing boat ramp. 

Also included is a proposal for Wharf Street to become a through-road, allowing cars and trailers to depart from the area at the back of the existing car and trailer parking areas. This should reduce congestion within the area on busy days.

We understand the importance of the boat ramp and the Council has recently invested more than $300,000 to upgrade the launching area. If the swell can be improved within the harbour, we'd like to add floating pontoons to the ramp to assist users of this regional asset.

In consultation with recreational boat users, the Council is proposing to introduce a user-pays system for launching boats to contribute towards the cost of dredging and to help fund future staged improvements to the facility.

Does the proposed travel lift limit the size of boats?

Smaller vessels can be launched by trailer using the boat ramp, while larger vessels will be launched using the proposed mobile boat hoist (travel lift).

Is this a two-berth or four-berth port?

The draft Port Revitalisation Programme masterplan shows a concept layout for the storage of vessels, with the final layout dictated by demand. 

The draft masterplan shows one existing ferry berth on Wharf One with expansion possible to the west to create a second berth. This is without considering the use of Wharf Two.

Would the Council pre-sell berths to raise funds?

This has not been considered at this stage. Berths are shown in the draft Port Revitalisation Programme masterplan so existing vessels from Wharf Two can be accommodated to free up space.

What about security at the port?

Security is important for any business or project in a public space. It will be considered for each and every area within the draft Port Revitalisation Programme masterplan.

How are you taking into consideration, when working on the river mouth, the protection of the banks that generate Whanganui's waves? 

Change to the banks would come if the river entrance was dredged to a deeper level to provide access for any new deep draft vessels.

For example, if a moderate size vessel ferry service were developed for the port, significant dredging (up to a depth of minus 7 metres) might be required. Such dredging would remove a significant volume of material and would likely change the way the wave breaks are formed.

At this stage, the only work proposed on the river banks is to progressively repair many years of deferred maintenance and possibly reinstate the Tanea Bank adjacent to the upstream end of the South Mole.

Will the North Mole and the Morgan Street beach be upgraded as well as Whanganui Port? What about a sealed car park for the North Mole as well as street lights and toilet facilities?

The Council is supporting Horizons Regional Council in its preparation of a business case to central government to upgrade the structural river-training structures in the lower Whanganui River, including the groynes at South Spit and the north and south moles. Horizons’ business case is linked to the Port Revitalisation Programme. The repair of the North Mole may include a fully sealed car park at the start of the mole, along with maintenance to allow access for fishing, be part of the Mountains to the Sea Cycle Trail and general recreation.

What about other infrastructure at the port such as service stations, tyre repairs and general maintenance for extra trucks that may use the area, especially if a ferry service is developed?

We are pleased to say that the surrounding commercial areas are well set-up to be developed for such supporting services, some of which are already in business.

Memorandum on the implications of proposed Whanganui Port and River dredging(PDF, 841KB) 06/6/2017
Whanganui Port Vessel Navigation Report 30 June 2017(PDF, 806KB) 30/6/2017
Marine Zone Reference Group Minutes 7 June 2017(PDF, 187KB)  07/6/2017
Recreation Zone Reference Group minutes 7 June 2017(PDF, 162KB)  07/6/2017
Freight and Logisitics Special Interest Group minutes 7 June 2017(PDF, 171KB) 07/6/2017
Freight and Logisitics Special Interest Group Minutes 4 May 2017(PDF, 215KB)  01/6/2017
Freight and Logisitics Special Interest Group Meeting 10 April 2017(PDF, 133KB)  01/6/2017
Freight and Logistics Special Interest Group Meeting 19 April 2017(PDF, 108KB)  12/5/2017
Midwest Ferries - Feasibility Study - Whanganui to Motueka Service Final Report - 5 May 2017(PDF, 2MB)  05/5/2017
Freight and Logistics Special Interest Group Meeting (Formerly Midwest Ferries Special Interst Group) 3 April 2017(PDF, 117KB)  04/4/2017
Minutes - Zone 1 - Marine Zone Reference Group - Meeting 4 - 17 March 2017(PDF, 145KB) 17/3/2017
Minutes - Zone 2 - Recreation Zone Reference Group - Meeting 3 - 16 March 2017(PDF, 150KB)   16/3/2017
Freight and Logistics Special Interest Group Meeting 1 February 2017 (Formerly Midwest Ferries Special Interest Group)(PDF, 85KB)   01/2/2017
Whanganui Port Revitalisation Master Plan(PDF, 5MB)   22/12/2016
Minutes of Community meeting - 20 December 2016 at Concert Chamber(PDF, 342KB) 20/12/2016
Minutes - Zone 1 - Meeting 3 - Marine Reference Group - 20 December 2016(PDF, 332KB) 20/12/2016
Minutes - Zone 2 - Recreation Zone Reference Group - 19 December 2016(PDF, 385KB) 19/12/2016
Minutes - Zone 1 Marine Reference Group - 7 November 2016(PDF, 2MB)   07/11/2016
Minutes - Zone 2 - Recreation Zone Reference Group - 7 November 2016(PDF, 494KB) 07/11/2016
Minutes - Freight and Logisitics Special Interest Group (Formerly Midwest Ferries Special Interest) - 4 November 2016(PDF, 335KB)   04/11/2016
Minutes - Zone 6 Education and Training - 2 November 2016(PDF, 119KB)   02/11/2016
Minutes - Zone 1 Marine Reference Group - 1 November 2016(PDF, 120KB)   01/11/2016
Reference Group Workshop Presentation(PDF, 5MB)  18/10/2016

Defining terms used within the Port Revitalisation Programme

Portfolio hierarchy


A project is a temporary organisation that is created for the purpose of delivering one or more business products. Usually a set of interrelated tasks to be executed over a fixed period to achieve a set of objectives.


A temporary flexible organisation structure created to co-ordinate, direct and oversee the implementation of a set of related projects and activities.

  • Programmes are typically completed in several tranches over an extended period to achieve outcomes that are greater than the sum of the parts. 
  • Programmes are about managing change with a strategic vision and a roadmap of how to get there. They are able to deal with uncertainty and complex inter-relationships in a dynamic environment by being flexible.


All the programmes and stand-alone projects being undertaken by an organisation, a group of organisations, or an organisational unit.


Community of interest

A community of people who share a common interest and exchange thoughts about it.

Reference group

Specific groups of people gathered to provide a balanced, representative view of the community as well as relevant insights, knowledge and expertise on a zone-by-zone basis to ultimately help determine a masterplan for Whanganui Port. 

The reference groups will remain closely involved in the masterplanning process over the lifetime of the Port Revitalisation Programme.

Special interest group

A group of people with a particular interest in one area, for example: Castlecliff, Whanganui–Motueka Ferry.

Feasibility stages 

Scoping study

A preliminary study to define the scope of a project – literally: “What could it be?”

Pre-feasibility study

“What should it be?” Pre-feasibility studies usually include a range of options for the technical and economic aspects of a project and are used to justify continued exploration, to complete the required project permitting or to attract a joint venture partner.

Feasibility study

“What will it be?” As the name implies, a feasibility study is used to determine the viability of an idea. 

The objective of such a study is to ensure a project is legally and technically feasible and economically justifiable. It tells us whether a project is worth the investment.

Decision points

Strategic assessment

Outlines the strategic fit and the drivers of change.

Decision: Confirms the need to invest and to proceed to business case development.

Indicative business case

Makes the case for change, explores the preferred way forward and shortlists options.

Decision: Confirms the case for change, the proposed way forward and to proceed to a detailed business case.

Detailed business case

Determines potential value for money, prepares for the potential deal, ascertains affordability and funding, and plans for successful delivery.

Decision: Confirms the way forward, to formally approach the market and prepare implementation of a business case.

Information memorandum

A document used generally in the financing of projects to define the work and to detail its financing arrangements.


  • Zone 1: Todd Street – Marine industry
  • Zone 2: Wharf Street – Recreation and community users
  • Zone 3: Morrison Street – Industrial
  • Zone 4: Heads Road – Industrial and storage
  • Zone 5: Taupō Quay – Commercial
  • Zone 6: Training and education services as it relates to the precinct  

Masterplan and maps

The draft masterplan for the Whanganui Port Revitalisation Programme incorporates ideas from the four reference groups and the public.

Business registration

For businesses who are interested in registering their business with the Whanganui Port Revitalisation Programme please fill out this form.