Google "Henry Newrick" and your search will throw up everything from publisher to marketer, author, art dealer, treasure hunter and more.

The man who has been described as a "mercurial entrepreneur", and has lived and worked around the world, is back in Whanganui where he grew up.

Now in his early 70s, and with a career which ranges from founding business publication National Business Review (NBR) at the age of 23 to advising a company that hunted for lost treasure on Spanish wrecks in the waters of Antigua and Barbuda, you'd think Newrick might be back home to retire and put his feet up.

You'd be wrong.

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The website for Newrick's UK-based business says he "comes from that school of thought which says that if you are not growing the business then you are surely going backwards".

Since his return to Whanganui Newrick has, amongst other things, brought several internationally-recognised business motivators and marketing experts to town for public forums, become a trustee of the PS Waimarie, is supporting the Whanganui-Motueka ferry proposal and is leading a project to produce a book about Whanganui.

"At the beginning of last year I joined the board of Whanganui River Developments with Tony Hodge and Rod Trott," Newrick says.

"One suggestion I had at that time was 'what about a book about Whanganui?'. I felt that what Whanganui could do with was a coffee table style book that was contemporary, well-designed and could help put Whanganui further on the map. There are lots of historical books about Whanganui but nothing contemporary that you could give as a gift and which has the double benefit of being both an excellent gift and also a promotion for the city.

"Initially the book was going to be published by Whanganui River Developments but later we decided that wasn't really appropriate as it wasn't part of a river development so, because of my publishing background, I've taken it over. Heritage Publishing, which is a division of my own company, is now doing it. This is the first book and then I'll move on to other projects."

Newrick is trying to keep the book "as local as possible" by involving Whanganui people in its production. Former Wanganui Chronicle editor John Maslin is the overall editor with Tony Cato, Iain Hyndman, David Ogilvie and Diana Beaglehole writing sections of the editorial content. Doug Davidson is writing about businesses and organisations for the sponsored section of the book.

Designer Joe Salmon is in charge of the layout and Steve Caudwell and other local photographers are involved. Even the typeface used for the cover title has a local connection. It was created by Kris Sowersby, a former Wanganui Collegiate and Whanganui School of Design student.

The book is called From the Sea to the Mountain.

"You would think that it would be From the Mountain to the Sea," Newrick says.

"However, Kupe is reported to have sailed into the entrance of the Whanganui River and traffic was initially upriver – traffic goes from the sea to the mountain. The river flows from the mountain to the sea but settlement started here and people went upriver to create settlements. I liked the juxtaposition of the title."

The book's subtitle Whanganui - its regions & its rivers acknowledges that while Whanganui is the centrepiece, it covers the area from Hawera down to Bulls and up to Raetihi and Ohakune.

"It will be a quality book in terms of its design, typography, photography etc. At least 65 per cent will be pure editorial about Whanganui and the region while the rest will be 'sponsored editorials' where businesses and organisations can take a page or two. The editorial won't be product promotion but will tell the organisation's story, particularly about businesses that have been around for a long time and are part of the town's heritage."

A publication of its kind would normally cost between $45 and $65-plus but Newrick wanted to keep it affordable and will sell it for $24.95. The sponsored editorial is helping keep the price down and it will be printed offshore, another cost saving, with a minimum print run of 4000.

"We're aiming to have advance copies back by late September and the bulk by mid-October – in time for Christmas gifting," Newrick said.

"The Whanganui District Council has ordered 500 copies. Early on Mayor Hamish McDouall indicated that the council could do with something to give as gifts to out of town and foreign visitors to the council.

"It will be good for people who have moved to Whanganui from overseas – they can send copies to their friends and family abroad. Long-time Whanganui residents can help promote the city by sending copies to friends and relatives abroad."

A full online version will be available. The editorial section of the book will be translated into Chinese and available as a supplement inside copies going to China. There is also an option to translate sponsored articles into other languages.

Heritage and family are key reasons Newrick's back in Whanganui.

"I've always loved Whanganui. As a child I enjoyed walking around Virginia Lake – I thought it was quite magical. I belonged to the Astronomical Society and learned Esperanto from Mrs Shaw in Glasgow St.

"It was a very happy childhood. We weren't a rich family but we did things together as a family. Sunday drives were very popular."

At school at St Augustine's College, with Henry standing fourth from the left.
At school at St Augustine's College, with Henry standing fourth from the left.

Newrick has fond memories of his secondary schooling at St Augustine's (now Cullinane) College. In the early days of the NBR when money was tight, he even used the St Augustine's College assembly hall on a couple of occasions to fold and pack the publication. A donation to the school was cheaper than renting space and hiring workers in Wellington.

Folding and packing National Business Review in the St Augustine's College hall.
Folding and packing National Business Review in the St Augustine's College hall.

"When I left school, I always said I would come back to Whanganui but I needed to go out and do things in the world first. When I turned 70 in 2016 I said it was time to come 'home'. I had two young children at that stage and I wanted them to grow up in an environment with wide open spaces rather than the confined spaces of England.

"Also there were the terror threats that were happening in Europe at that time, and that are still happening. The way the world is going economically I think there's another major crash coming in due course. When that happens, and if the terror threats increase, if the world goes into decline, New Zealand will become a more attractive place to people from the UK and US, especially those with some money."

Another consideration in coming back was because "it's a shorter distance from Springvale to Aramoho than from London to Aramoho".

"I want to be buried in Aramoho Cemetery. My paternal grandparents, assorted aunts and uncles, along with my father, are there. My heritage is in Whanganui.

"My grandfather was a leading art restorer in London. Lord Duveen, the greatest art dealer of all time, was a client.

"During World War I my Aunt May met a Kiwi soldier called Jack Symes in London and fell in love. He was from Westmere. She told my grandfather 'I'm going to marry him and move to Whanganui'. He said 'no you're not', she said 'yes I am'. He again said 'no you're not' and so forth. Finally my grandfather said 'if you're going, we're all going'. So he and his wife Minnie and the rest of the family came to New Zealand and arrived in Whanganui in September 1921. Aunty May had arrived a bit earlier in 1919.

"My grandfather was in charge of the Sarjeant Gallery from 1925 to 1950. He made some quite big acquisitions and also did restoration work for clients around New Zealand and Australia.

"His crowning achievement was restoration of the [Nicholas] Chevalier collection. There were 110 of Chevalier's works stored in Wellington and they were rotting. It was suggested by the New Zealand Academy of Fine Arts that the government send him a painting to restore. They ended up giving him the entire collection to restore which took him a couple of years. He also got work restoring paintings damaged in the Napier earthquake."

Newrick's father Bert helped with the restoration work. He also managed the Pipiriki Guest House for a couple of years and drove service cars up the Parapara. Newrick inherited the family love of art and has written art reference books, owned an art gallery and still deals in art.

Henry Newrick in his study around 1971 in the early days of his publishing career.
Henry Newrick in his study around 1971 in the early days of his publishing career.

As someone who is continually looking for the next opportunity, what does Newrick see for Whanganui's future?

"Whanganui has a number of things that make it attractive to visitors – Vintage Weekend, Artists Open Studios, Cemetery Circuit, the river," he says.

"We don't get nearly enough from tourism. Last year Whanganui received just over $100 million from tourism. $80m was from domestic tourists and $20.50 million from foreign tourists. The foreign element might sound a lot but in reality it is just $2.03 for every $1000 spent by overseas tourists in New Zealand. In other words Whanganui received just one-fifth of 1 per cent of the international tourist dollar in New Zealand.

"I'm supporting Neville Johnson's proposals for a ferry service to Motueka. I think he should be given the opportunity to make his case as long as it doesn't impact on the ratepayer. If that project comes off, there's no doubt it would increase tourism and bring significant financial benefits to the city. People would be able to do a loop around the North and South Islands. There are hurdles to overcome, the port has to be redeveloped and a dredging programme will be needed.

"We need more people here. Whanganui appeals to retirees and those with young families because the cost of houses is still relatively affordable. There are good facilities, the sea, the walks, the Splash Centre and plenty of things to do. There's a great selection of coffee shops.

"I still have my UK company and I'm in regular contact with clients there but the internet has changed the way of doing business. A number of companies in Whanganui export all over the world.

"I know internet entrepreneurs overseas and if it was put to them I think some might consider coming here – at least to check the city out – and our book will help bring the city to their attention. I have a much faster internet connection here than I had in the UK. If you run an internet business, Whanganui with its fibre optic connectivity and access to the outdoors is an attractive place. It was the outdoors that brought billionaire Peter Thiel to New Zealand.

"It's a delight to be able to cross the city in six or seven minutes. Everything is pretty accessible. There's the sea on one hand and, though I'm a bit old for it now, skiing and the mountain on the other side.

"I just love Whanganui."