Projects to repair the Whanganui River moles and bring new life to Whanganui's port have a new governance group that combines iwi and two councils.

The projects include repair of the North and South moles, repair of the wharves and their buildings and moving private business Q-West Boat Builders closer to the port.

The governance model was announced on Friday, June 26, and Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones is expected in Whanganui on Thursday, July 2, to make Provincial Growth Fund announcements.

The fund has been asked for $7.5 million to repair the moles, and both Whanganui District Council and Horizons Regional Council have made commitments to pay the rest of that cost.


Whanganui District Council allocated $12.3m toward port improvement for the 2019-20 financial year. Some of that has been spent and tenders have been let.

The governance model will ensure work is done in a way that includes the whole community and recognises the new legal status of the Whanganui River under the 2017 Te Awa Tupua (Whanganui River Claims Settlement) Act, a statement on behalf of the new governance group says.

The group is called Te Puwaha, a reference to the outlet or river mouth.

Its first four members are Ngā Tāngata Tiaki o Whanganui Trust chairman Gerrard Albert, Horizons Regional Council chairwoman Rachel Keedwell, Whanganui District mayor Hamish McDouall and Whanganui Land Settlement Negotiation Trust chairman Ken Mair.

They agreed unanimously at a March meeting that the group will be guided by the Tupua Te Kawa values in the 2017 legislation.

"These values can broadly be described as the metaphysical and indivisible nature of the river, the intrinsic and inalienable place of hapū and iwi as the river, and community empowerment via a collective obligation to work collaboratively for the river's benefit," Albert said.

More members, appointed by the councils and iwi, will be added to the group.

Horizons has been looking to strengthen the river moles since 2018 to keep the built environment safe and create a navigable river mouth for the port, Keedwell said.


Whanganui District Council began an upgrade of No 1 Wharf in 2016. It wants to continue that work with Wharves 2 and 3 and make other infrastructure improvements in line with its Port Revitalisation Project.

The infrastructure has to be in good condition to support economic development and bring jobs, McDouall said.

People have been inclined to assume iwi and hapū have delayed the port project by holding it to ransom, Mair said. Instead the problem has been that iwi and hapū have not been included, he said, and there has not been enough understanding of Te Awa Tupua legislation.

The Te Puwaha governance group is a historic opportunity to make a new start, with a different mindset in relation to both the river and the whole community, McDouall said.

"This is what Te Awa Tupua is about, a community obligation shared with iwi under a common value set, Tupua te Kawa. That way no one is left behind," Albert said.