Hamish Lampp's first childhood memory is coming to Whanganui's Kowhai Park.

Now he's back in the region after 17 years overseas to take on a job as Whanganui District Council's principal planner.

"The regions are where it's at. I'm convinced of that."

Mr Lampp grew up in Marton and spent a year working for Opus in Whanganui before heading overseas where he worked in Melbourne, London and Norfolk.

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"The driver for coming back was for the kids really," he said.

"I know the area relatively well even though I've been out of it for a while."

Mr Lampp takes over from Jonathan Barrett who was in the job while major planning projects such at the Town Centre Regeneration Strategy were being drawn up.

"To be fair, my predecessor was clearly heavily involved in that and had made great strides there. I'm picking that up and making sure that momentum is there."

The way the community had led the Castlecliff Rejuvenation Project was a model for how planning should work, he said.

"If the community's saying to us we want to do x, y and z, that's brilliant because we're already a step ahead.

"Sometimes getting that community buy in at the start takes energy but clearly we've already got that. That makes our life a lot easier to be honest.

"The opportunity and the potential for that area is off the scale. You provide the right environment there, the people will come."

Mr Lampp believes there is a movement towards the regions taking place as costs push people out of major centres.

Whanganui could benefit from that.

"There's just a few pieces in the puzzle we've got to bring together but the regions are where it's at. I'm convinced of that."

During his time in Ballarat he saw the expense of Melbourne leading to growth in the surrounding regions.

"And what came with that was the cafe culture, the arts hub, that piggybacks on the back of it.

"Whanganui really is the Ballarat of five years ago where it was just on the cusp of growth.

"It's the amenities here and the affordability. Those two factors and the lifestyle will bring people here. What we've got ot ensure is we've got the jobs for them."

Mr Lampp said planning, in terms of the right land supply in the right places, can play a role in that.

"If we've got that and the jobs are coming I don't see any real issue in being able to attract people. They without doubt will come.

"Things like the Splash Centre, the running track - that's extraordinary to have that in the centre of the city and that it's open and accessible to the public at any time - the velodrome, the coast.

"People don't realise what they've got till they've gone away to other places and think 'you know what? We've got a lot of stuff going on that places twice the size don't."

And having been in the job a few weeks Mr Lampp has been familiarising himself with the uniquely New Zealand aspects of planning, such as the Resource Management Act.

"All the principles are the same as overseas. It's just the way that they are governed and executed," he said.

"Relationships with iwi - and wider stakeholders - have become even more important.

"It took time for that to bed in and to grow and to be recognised. Whereas now, 20 years down the track we should be better at it and that still needs to be the focus."