Philippa Ivory's decision to quit her job at Whanganui & Partners is a surprise — and not a pleasant one.

It apparently came out of the blue and suggests another stumble in the stuttering journey of Whanganui District Council's economic development agency.

Just six months ago Ms Ivory was relishing her new role as general manager of Whanganui & Partners and extolling the virtues of her home town — "a really funky go-ahead place".

The former Whanganui Girls College student called on locals to be proud of Whanganui and, coming from a senior position at New Zealand Rugby League in Auckland, looked set to give the economic agency the credibility it had been struggling for.

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It seemed such a good fit, so how have the wheels come off in such a short space of time?

Talking to those who have dealt with Ivory, some have been impressed, others less so, while there have been suggestions she did not see eye to eye with some sections of the Whanganui & Partners board.

Whatever is behind her departure, there is cause for concern among those who want to see Whanganui prosper — and probably equal concern among ratepayers who fund the agency to the tune of more than $2 million a year.

Philippa Ivory has quit her job as general manager of Whanganui and Partners
Philippa Ivory has quit her job as general manager of Whanganui and Partners

The organisation's chequered four-year career has seen wholesale staff changes and a number of business strategies.

Last year it developed measurable performance targets in conjunction with the council, but they were scrapped before anyone could get their calculator out. New, less specific requirements are supposedly in place.

One has to feel some sympathy for board chairman Myles Fothergill who must now resume the search for the right person to head up the organisation.

Fothergill is a successful businessman and a great champion of Whanganui, but he's a busy man with Q-West boat builders to run.

His fellow board members are also busy people, some of them not even living in Whanganui.

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Which begs the question: Is the board too distant (and not just geographically) and too hands-off from the operation side of Whanganui & Partners?