Whanganui must make the most of its economic opportunities, according to four Labour Party MPs who visited Whanganui on Wednesday.

Damien O'Connor, David Parker, Nanaia Mahuta and Adrian Rurawhe spoke at a forum at the Grand Hotel, attended by about 30 people.

Titled "the future of regional New Zealand", the forum looked at Labour's vision for the provinces, as the party prepares for the general election in 2017.

Mr O'Connor said New Zealand's future must be about getting the most value for what the country produces.


He said growing business and employment opportunities were vital, as well as strengthening New Zealand's communities.

Ms Mahuta said all four MPs were from the provinces and understood the challenges faced by the regions.

She said it was necessary to make the provinces attractive to those in the bigger cities, and to find out what would attract them to move to a place like Whanganui.

"Working remotely may not be the norm at the moment, but it could be in the future," Ms Mahuta said.

There was also some discussion around devolving government departments from Wellington.

Mr O'Connor said Labour was committed to bring government jobs back to regional centres such as Palmerston North and Whanganui.

"I think the earthquake will help make that happen," he said.

From the audience, local tourism operator Rory Smith said he had recently attended a symposium in Palmerston North, where discussions around Palmerston North being an alternative capital to Wellington had taken place.

"I believe Palmerston North is a vital partner for Whanganui," Mr Smith said.

Also speaking at the forum were Whakahoro farmer and environmentalist Dan Steele, and Whanganui Mayor Hamish McDouall.