A ginger group of Whanganui businessmen is intent on firing up interest in this year's local body elections, and keen to get fresh blood around the council table.

David Bennett, spokesman for the group, said they would be actively canvassing potential candidates "very early" in 2016.

"People need time to think about making a commitment to stand, but we need to get things rolling," he said.

About a year ago, Mr Bennett, the boss of Pacific Helmets, teamed up with Bernard Corkery and Rod Trott to put together a paper suggesting a target to boost Whanganui's population to 60,000.


Now they're intent on doing something more tangible as they look to stimulate interest in the October elections.

"We're looking to identify a number of capable individuals who would be interested in putting their hands up as candidates."

He said the candidates could promote a comprehensive, coherent and positive plan for the city.

"There are some great leaders in Whanganui who should be thinking about the contribution they can make now.

"These people are unlikely to have personal agendas, apart from a service ethos - they may be reluctant to get involved, but the city needs them now.

"We suspect that at least four existing councillors will not stand for re-election, so there will be vacancies that need to be filled with the right people."

The group also believes the council needs to streamline the way goes about its business because it is too demanding on elected representatives.

"Some had no idea how much of their time would be taken up in their roles. Council has become a marathon race when it shouldn't be like that."

Mr Bennett said councillors were not paid much and there was an imbalance between what they received and the amount of time they were expected to devote to council business.

There needed to be clear lines of distinction between governance and management.
"For too long, councillors have become too involved in the daily operations, instead of having a clear understanding of the different but complementary roles of governance and management," he said.

"A new council needs to stand aloof from daily operations and set the agenda by setting a vision for council operations that matches the aspirations of the residents. It's the management's responsibility to bring these visions to life."

He said some of the targets in the paper he, Mr Corkery and Mr Trott prepared had been taken up by others, such as Whanganui and Partners, but more needed to be done and quickly.

"There are opportunities to head-hunt businesses to move here, and there are obvious advantages for big-city residents to move here for lifestyle or even retirement."

The most serious concerns Whanganui faced was the wastewater treatment plant.

"We have serious concerns about the abilities of some of the infrastructure staff and question how well they actually operated the existing plant. We also question the quality and level of reporting to council by the senior management.

"With a current staff headcount of around 250, we are sure that there are some good people there, but the results of their labours are not obvious."

Mr Bennett said a number of people had suggested he put his name forward for the mayoralty.

"But, like many senior business owners, I've been too busy running the businesses we own, and even now I'm reluctant to take on such responsibility at my time of life."