It could be a match made in heaven - forlorn Whanganui shop meets eager emerging artist.

That's the plan for a new initiative to fill the central business district's empty retail spaces.

The just-launched Collective Whanganui is described as the city's "very own creative enterprise hub" by one of its champions Doreen Hardy.

The group aims to harness the city's artistic output to fill empty shops and other commercial premises, possibly only temporarily.


Mrs Hardy, an experienced retailer and chair of Mainstreet Wanganui's board, said the 50 empty spaces in the Central Business District was "not a good look".

Collective Whanganui will act as a kind of matchmaker for people wanting space and those with commercial space available.

"We're calling on our building and commercial space owners - and we already have some on board - to allow us to use their empty spaces while they continue to look for tenants, or in the interim, before they start on their renovation.

"And we will be matching artists, creative and community groups to these spaces to allow them to dip their toes into entrepreneurial waters, to test their products against the market, to allow us to peruse their gallery spaces, for a short time only and at very little cost to the creators.

"Hopefully [it will be of ] massive benefit to the owners of the spaces and ultimately to Whanganui."

The empty shops in the city centre gained national notoriety last year when broadcaster Duncan Garner visited.

"Now we've come up with a plan to do something about it" Mrs Hardy said.

"And maybe when we've succeeded we'll invite the naysayers back into Whanganui to see it."

She said Whanganui punched well above its weight in the artistic, creative world. "All you have to do is wander around the Saturday market and see what's on offer, or take the opportunities offered by the Artists Open Studios to visit some of our best in their places of work.

"And let's not forget the knitters of the Gonville Library Group.

"Creativity comes in all shapes and sizes - from artists on canvas, to potters, to web designers to embroiderers and beyond.

"And a lot of those will be wondering how to take the next step in their creative journeys."

Collective Whanganui's ideas will be outlined by Mrs Hardy on March 1 at a presentation in the Whanganui District Council chambers at 5.30pm.

Mrs Hardy said the idea had come from councillor Helen Craig and was also supported by Whanganui and Partners and, in particular, its manager Adrian Dixon.

Building owners, insurance companies and estate agents were also on board.