Local company Q-West Boat Builders has confirmed it will shift to Whanganui's port, a move giving surety to the firm and anchoring a major revitalisation for the waterfront.
For years the boatyard has had problems with maintaining sufficient depths into the Whanganui River from its Gilberd St facility but has now signed a memorandum of understanding with the district council to relocate to the port.
Q-West will lease two properties at the port. One is on the site occupied by the soon-to-be-demolished cement silos in Tod St and the other is 507 Heads Rd, on the corner of Heads Rd and Tod.
Kym Fell, the council's chief executive officer, said the memorandum of understanding was a "significant milestone" in the programme to revitalise Whanganui's port.
The upgrade is part of the regional growth strategy initiated by the Government and now included as part of the Accelerate25 programme.
Mr Fell said Q-West would be looking at its building requirements for the site while the council investigated the designs for the shared heavy launching infrastructure that would be needed by Q-West and other marine businesses. One option is the use of a mobile boat hoist, some of them capable of lifting several hundred tonnes. At the moment Q-West has to use cranes to lift big boats from its slipway into the Whanganui River.
The boat-building company has launched a number of large vessels and the latest of these is sitting on the company's slipway.
It is the second of three passenger ferries the Whanganui company has built for Auckland firm Fullers.
The first was Te Kotuku, which went into service in December 2014.
Fullers then ordered two very similar ferries with the one currently on the slip due to start working this summer and the second expected to be completed in July next year.
Fullers has invested $16 million in those two new ferries.
In an update to the district council, special projects manager Rowan McGregor and marine expert Phil Wardale said a number of other initiatives were under way to keep the port project moving.
Mr McGregor said this meant getting the opinions of the community about their thoughts on the future of the port and had involved a number of reference group meetings held over the past two weeks.
He said there had been a good response to calls for registration of interest from local businesses to relocate to the port area. One of those was with the promoter of an interisland ferry link between Castlecliff and the port of Motueka.