The time for talking about Whanganui's heritage is over - the district council now needs to come up with a clear strategy.

That message came from a public meeting on Tuesday night seeking ideas to put Whanganui on the map as the country's leading heritage city and district.

District councillor Helen Craig has been working with a small sub-committee pushing the heritage theme. This week's meeting in the Davis Lecture Theatre had speakers from the Whanganui Regional Heritage Trust and Heritage New Zealand.

Mrs Craig said more than 85 people attended, which indicated the depth of support and was a clear signal to the council that it must get moving on the issue.


She said, if the meeting was an indicator, then there was a strong vein of support for the project.

The main goal was to encourage the council to establish a heritage strategy, and there was a need to get citizens excited about what was being planned.

"What we can do as a separate group is run local and national heritage awards, and we're working with Heritage New Zealand on that," Mrs Craig said. Incentives to building owners, such as rates rebates, was another option flagged at the meeting, "but this isn't about handing out money".

"The heritage we have, from the earliest Maori settlements to modern buildings, is something unique to Whanganui. We're one of the few places in the country that can show that.

"But it's important that the council understands the importance of this heritage. There's been talk at the council but nothing else, and that's not enough.

"It's time for council to come up with the heritage strategy."

Among keynote speakers were John Vickers, chairman of the Whanganui Regional Heritage Trust, architect Bruce Dickson and representatives from Heritage New Zealand.

"Some of the Heritage NZ people hadn't been here before and were gobsmacked with the heritage buildings they saw in the central city," Mrs Craig said.

"They all said it would be banking gold for the future if we work to retain what we've got."

People at the meeting were asked to write down their ideas and that data would be analysed before the sub-committee meets again in about a month.