An Asian businesswoman is determined to do something for the New Zealand city that educated her three children.

That's why Elsie Chen, from Taiwan, was in Wanganui yesterday talking about plans to set up a factory here.

Mrs Chen, who owns knitting factories throughout Asia, aims to launch a Wanganui operation working with possum fibre.

And she says her factory would create a minimum of 40 jobs, but there was the possibility that figure could run into the hundreds.


Currently in the process of buying a building in the city, she hopes to have the factory start production next year.

"I sent the first of my children here to be educated in 1997, and I visited them several times a year, so I have been here many times," she said yesterday after a meeting with mayor Annette Main at the council chambers.

The first child to come to Wanganui was her oldest daughter Eva, who now lives in New Zealand and still has strong links to Wanganui.

"I really love Wanganui, and I thought it was so pretty," Mrs Chen said. "But the last time I came back I was disappointed and I thought the city must get back to being active like it was.

"I wanted to do something to help because I really appreciate the very good education Wanganui gave my three children."

Possum fur offers plenty of potential and she wants to blend it with high-quality synthetic material to create a fibre that has the warmth and lightness of possum but is more durable and machine washable.

"I thought I could use my experience and my teamwork to develop this area."

Chris Heywood from Whanganui & Partners said Mrs Chen had approached the council's economic organisation and they had immediately seen the potential in what she was proposing.

He said there was also interest in other industries such as honey.

Maartje Morton, former deputy principal of Wanganui Girls' College, and her daughter Claire Morton, are working with the Chens to set up an English language school in the city.

Mrs Morton was the homestay "mother" for Mrs Chen's daughter Eva while she was a student at Girls' College.

Ms Chen said she had very good contacts in both China and Taiwan, and would like to encourage Chinese people to settle here - many of whom would need to learn English.

"The thing about Wanganui is the good education, so I would like to see Wanganui become a training hub so people can come here and get training for their career path."

She is also working with Girls' College with a view to expanding their international student programme.