Outgoing Horizons Regional councillor Colleen Sheldon has been appointed Whanganui & Partners' agribusiness strategic leader.

Sheldon has been a councillor for nine years and a chairwoman of its environment committee.

She's not standing for re-election this year and starts the job of leading and growing Whanganui's agriculture industry on August 18.

Filling the position was critical to Whanganui & Partners' strategy for economic development, chief executive Mark Ward said.


"Manawatū-Whanganui is the biggest sheep and beef producing region in the country.

"Agriculture makes up 7.6 per cent of Whanganui's economy. Meat and meat products are 20 per cent of Whanganui's exports. We absolutely cannot ignore the importance of this sector."

Whanganui & Partners has a vision of making Whanganui and surrounding districts a centre for international trade in high-value food and beverage products. That would come off the back of both sustainable farming and an innovative manufacturing and logistics sector, Ward said.

The ambitious vision is achievable given the strong position of those sectors in Whanganui's economy, he said. Building on already strong sectors allowed businesses to make use of existing infrastructure, land assets and trained staff for further growth.

"Together, agribusiness, manufacturing and logistics makes up nearly a quarter of our economy. We know these are our region's economic advantages - now it's a matter of steering the sectors towards our larger vision and navigating change within the industry. I think Colleen is the right person to do this."

Sheldon said one of the best aspects of her role at Horizons was the opportunity to work for outcomes that made residents resilient to a changing world.

"I see the same needs in the agribusiness arena. Primary industry practice is changing with new technologies, environmental concerns and changing regulations. Our farmers need to be in a position to adapt and thrive in the face of these changes."

She has first-hand knowledge of issues impacting the region's farmers, as she and her husband own a 380-cow dairy farm in Manawatū. In 2017 and 2018, the couple won the regional Dairy Business of the Year.


Sheldon sees developing employment pathways as an area where Whanganui & Partners can add value to the industry and the wider community.

"Opportunities to connect younger people to agribusiness jobs, and for them to see a future that involves education and upskilling, will pay dividends to the wider district and region by bringing a vibrancy to rural businesses," she said.