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Given to the City in 1955, the Coat of Arms includes part of the Arms of Lord Petre, an important officer of the New Zealand Company, after whom the City was first named Petre, and part of the Arms of William Hogg Watt, the first Mayor.
The Coat of Arms was presented to the "City of Wanganui" by Dr Morris Watt in 1955. An explanation of the meaning of the symbols which appear on the Coat of Arms is:
Rutland Stockade - The Rutland Stockade is a reminder that Whanganui was a garrison town from 1846 to 1870, the period during which the British Regiments were stationed in Whanganui.
Ram's Head - The ram's head denotes the pastoral industry, a source of wealth to the District.
Books - The books represent Whanganui's reputation as a cultural and educational city.
Silver Shells - The silver shells, denoting a pilgrimage, were taken from Lord Petre's Coat of Arms, and here mark the long voyage the early settlers took in 1841 from England, to found Whanganui.
Broad Silver Band - The broad silver wavy band represents the Whanganui River, the pathway used over the centuries by the Maori, and later by the Pakeha, to the centre of the North Island.
Gold Bands - The gold band on each side of the silver band represent the wealth created by the many industries centred on Whanganui.
The Three Ships - The three ships come from the Coat of Arms of William Hogg Watt, the first Mayor, and represent the fleet of ships of Taylor and Watt, which opened up trade from Whanganui to the outside world.
Lion - The supporter on the left-hand side is the lion from the Petre Coat of Arms, with the addition of the four stars of the Southern Cross.
Tuatara - The support on the right-hand side is New Zealand's native tuatara, and recognises the City's strong links with the Maori people.
Motto - The motto is "Sans Dieu Rien" (Without God Nothing) and was the motto of Lord Petre.
The Coat of Arms was granted to the Wanganui City Council and not the Whanganui District Council. A number of councils throughout New Zealand are in a situation where the grant was originally made to an organisation other than the current controlling authority. To rectify this situation a royal warrant is required. However, for convenience the rights have been allowed to be assumed by the Whanganui District Council. As they are then no longer truly the “Wanganui City Coat of Arms” they should more properly be known as the “Memorial Bearings of the Whanganui District”.