Whanganui District Council and Whanganui & Partners representatives will jet off to Australia next month with the aim of developing economic ties with Asia and exploring business opportunities.
Councillor Alan Taylor, on behalf of mayor Hamish McDouall, and Whanganui & Partners chief executive Mark Ward will represent Whanganui at the 12th Asia Pacific Cities Summit and the Asian Century Conference in Brisbane. They will also travel to Whanganui's sister city Toowoomba to look at possible business partnerships.
The theme for the conference is "Driving Cities through Business and Innovation". More than 1300 delegates from 100-plus cities will attend and the summit offers a programme to facilitate business meetings to assist with trade development.
Toowoomba's economic development organisation, Toowoomba and Surat Basin Enterprise, will hold a trade event, "Ag in the Asian Century Conference", that will run concurrently. It will focus on agriculture and agribusiness, enabling food producers to do business throughout Asia.
A two-day visit to the Toowoomba region will include visits to a digital hub, food and beverage clusters, creative industry centres and tourist/visitor information centres.
The summit would provide greater understanding about doing business in Asia, Taylor said. The council recently signed a "strategic partner" agreement with Lijiang, China.
"The Asia Pacific Cities Summit will cover the innovation, liveability and sustainability of cities and I hope to glean what future city development might look like as cities are increasingly challenged by the almost overwhelming themes of sustainability and expected climate change.
"Most cities represented will be many times the size of Whanganui and provide a range of different examples of how they have approached these themes."
The Toowoomba visit would include seeing first-hand its development of integrated infrastructure and utilities networks, Taylor said.
"I understand it has taken an holistic approach to its water and waste management services and we appear to view planning for our community, economy and environment in a similar way."
He was also interested in Toowoomba's role in energy production.
Ward said he would study the success of the Global Agrifood Innovation Precinct in Toowoomba, food and beverage clusters and Toowoomba's international Wellcamp Airport.
"Businesses have invested heavily, alongside local and federal government, in positioning Toowoomba as a global agrifood innovation hub, matched by ready access to international markets through their local airport," Ward said.
"Cathay Pacific flies freight directly to and from Wellcamp Airport and through their Hong Kong hub into China. This could be a model for providing a direct freight service from Ohakea airbase to China for our regional produce and value-added food and beverage. Other areas of interest will be the creative industries centres and visitor centres."