Whanganui's property market is currently one of the strongest in New Zealand but a leading economist says the district needs a big step up in economic performance for long-term sustainability.

Cameron Bagrie, of Bagrie Economics, said Whanganui was currently playing catch-up after being "pretty late to the housing party".

"Whanganui underperformed for a very extensive and long period - and to be fair that's how things tend to go in some of the regions such as Whanganui," he said.

"The way it generally works is it tends to be Auckland off to the races first and then it takes a

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