The "untold stories" about business success and potential is something that Whanganui needs to be promoting more aggressively according to a Wellington-based business consultant.

Bill McDonald, from Wellington firm Vapour, has been engaged by the Ministry of Business, Employment and Innovation and the Ministry for Primary Industry to develop the Government's regional growth strategy.

The regional growth study was released in July last year and identified industries with the potential for growth. Most notable for Whanganui was a $500,000 investment - in partnership with the Whanganui District Council - to develop a plan to revitalise the port precinct.

Mr McDonald's company is providing the link between this region and government agencies in Wellington and his job is to look for those business opportunities under the strategy's Accelerate 25 programme.


"Often the good (business) stories in a region don't get told. There's much good stuff happening in the provinces and often that doesn't get back to the Wellington," he said.

"We've been working with Whanganui and Partners looking to see what those opportunities were across a really board range and the entire region up to Mt Ruapehu and down to Horowhenua.

"It's about identifying those at a high level. Each of those will need to be have full business case studies done on them so the decision-makers can decide whether to invest in those.

"Those core investors at the moment are the district council, regional council and central government. But we're also looking for genuine private investment partners to create this public-private partnership."

Mr McDonald said the country's best kept secrets lay in the provinces.

"The Government's probably ignored the regions until recent times but there's now a clear interest from Wellington that they need to see what opportunities are out there in places like Whanganui.

"There are a whole lot of untold stories in Whanganui but that's not uncommon in many places where we've been involved in business cases. But the opportunities here haven't always been well described to people who might be interested in taking them forward.

"You've got the Bartley group and its arrangement with CentrePort in Wellington. There's a huge opportunity around the Castlecliff freight terminal. The there's Pacific Helmets and GDM, two companies that are doing internationally-recognised work. But in Wellington they're not always aware those things are going on in regions like Whanganui.

"And I know if you get down below those levels there's another bunch of other interesting enterprises also making a contribution."

Mr McDonald said Whanganui businesses should regard a major centre like Wellington should be seen as a potential export market.

"There's good transport infrastructure already in place and if you look north than in five hours or so you've got an even bigger market in Auckland."

He said the regional growth study had removed a major road block to Whanganui doing business.

"You've got some interesting opportunities with Whanganui and Partners' "Liftoff" programme which is all about peer-to-peer lending and is a relatively new development in financial markets. It gives local businesses access to potential capital that wasn't there before.

"But what investors want is good quality information about why they should invest in Whanganui business."

He said Whanganui was a low cost area to start a business. House prices were reasonable and it had good basic infrastructure.

"And there are lots of good people around who can support you as a business start-up. Whanganui and Partners is hugely supportive of business and the council itself has demonstrated the same keenness.

"And as various iwi groups settle their Treaty of Waitangi claims they'll become potential and considerable investors looking for opportunities."

He said Whanganui needs to start looking at the next generation of entrepreneurs, those in the 20-30 year age group looking to get into their own business.

"It's about how we get the younger generation involved and wanting to stay here. But first it's about opening people's eyes."