Whanganui's iconic paddle steamer has a new manager.

The former manager of the Trafalgar Square shopping centre Evert van Reenan will take over the reins of the Waimarie operation in August.

"I am excited about this opportunity and believe Whanganui has a real asset in the Waimarie when it comes to taking advantage of the growth in tourism in New Zealand," Mr van Reenan said.

He has owned businesses in Whanganui and managed the visitor centre, and was also an inaugural member of the Whanganui Riverboat Restoration Trust, being involved in the planning to raise the Waimarie from her resting place in the river in the 1990s.


"I am looking forward to working with the volunteers and staff who have played a huge role in the restoration and operation of this magnificent vessel over the 20-odd years it has been since Dave McDermid convinced me to get involved.

"I'm keen to see staff more involved in the development of ideas and the senior members taking lead roles in key areas, such as health and safety and experience development and the implementation process to make this New Zealand's premier heritage experience."

Ann Petherick, newly-elected as chair of the Waimarie Operating Trust, said she was thrilled with the appointment "particularly given Evert's strong connection with the Waimarie and Whanganui, and his background in operational management".

She said a review of the trust structure meant that the focus of the manager's role would be more strategic and more connected with the development of the operation as a heritage experience.

"We believe Evert's skills and background suit him well to play the leadership role in product and experience development, promotion and marketing, and stakeholder and customer relations."

Currently living in Wellington, Mr van Reenan and his wife Elizabeth will move back to Whanganui. He will be the organisation's first manager since Peter Hardy resigned in March last year, administration being undertaken by Marion Johnston in the interim.

The 117-year-old Waimarie lay at the bottom of the Whanganui River for about 50 years before being salvaged and restored as New Zealand's only operational coal-fired paddle steamer.