Growing Whanganui's population is a key issue for this year's local body elections, along with keeping rates affordable, and getting the new waste water treatment plant built.

Whanganui's population is growing, but modestly, Deputy Mayor and 2016 mayoral candidate Hamish McDouall said.

Young families would not move to the town unless there were job opportunities, he said.

"Really that's about working with business and facilitating that."


McDouall was concerned about rates affordability, and how the city's new waste water treatment plant would impact on that.

The Whanganui District Council last month confirmed its decision to build a new plant after the existing one failed.

Whanganui's next mayor would need to be a cheerleader for the town, have the ability to retain relationships, have credibility, and be someone who can build a team, he said.

RSA manager and council candidate Kyle Dalton said the mayor would need to be "proactive, positive about the town, and also needs to be decisive". They also needed to push long-term planning, including 100-year plans.

Meanwhile, Koha Shed co-founder Sherryn Sunnex said Whanganui had a "housing crisis", a "huge" methamphetamine problem, and its youth were "slipping between the cracks".

The mayor needed to be "people focused" and look at dealing with poverty before beautifying the town or concentrating on arts and culture.

"Culture is great, but it means nothing at all to those that don't have anything."

The mayor would need to be "employment focused" and concentrate on working with the big businesses that brought employment opportunities to Whanganui people.

Mayoral candidate Andy Jarden said saving Whanganui's heritage buildings was a key issue, and that earthquake strengthening rules were too tough for landlords.

"We can't allow any more of our heritage buildings to be knocked over."

He said the new mayor needed to be business-minded, and not push their own agenda.

Age Concern Wanganui manager Tracy Lynn said a main issue was the number of empty shops in Whanganui.

"The town needs to encourage industry and employment," she said.

Another issue was lack of good public transport.

The mayor needed to be "user friendly" and accessible.

Mayoral candidate and current councillor Helen Craig said the top issues also included pollution of the sea and beaches, and flood and storm management.

Among a large list of things, the new mayor would need to have "a clear vision for Whanganui that will ensure our unique character is maintained".

Current mayor: Annette Main

Number of people enrolled: 31,457

Voter turnout last eleciton: 58.6 per cent