A prestigious rural leadership programme being brought to Whanganui is a "game-changing" opportunity for local agribusiness and rural communities in the wider region, programme supporters say.
Whanganui District Council's economic development agency Whanganui and Partners has signed a partnership with the Kellogg Rural Leadership Programme to bring the six-month programme to Whanganui next year.
Usually based at Lincoln, the programme aims to grow up to 24 rural leaders in each intake, providing skills and confidence in strategic development.
Colleen Sheldon, Whanganui and Partners strategic lead for agribusiness, says the Whanganui-based intake will be open to all of New Zealand and is designed for anyone interested in or already working in any field of agribusiness, including rural bankers, fertiliser representatives, sheep and beef farmers, dairy farmers and growers.
Sheldon said Whanganui and Partners has heard from farmers looking to pivot and growers looking to extend their season, as well as others working in agribusiness. They are seeking access to research, expertise, influencers, new skills and information about agribusiness development nationally and overseas, and the programme is pitched at anyone who needs a question answered, she said.
"I'm hoping we'll get quite a strong cohort of Whanganui participants, and of course up to Taranaki, Ruapehu, Rangitīkei – people that are future thinkers, global thinkers, they're thinking about what NZ's impact is on the world and of course, what the world's impact is on NZ."
Te Puni Kōkiri regional director for Te Tai Hauāuru, Jessica Smith, is an alumni. She completed the programme through a Zespri scholarship.
"I found it to be quite a game-changer, being a wahine Māori in the agribusiness sector, to be able to connect with a whole range of like-minded people that are wanting to pursue great things not just for Māori but for the food and fibre sector across Aotearoa," Smith said.
"Lots of game-changing thinking going on … it was an opportunity for me to build my own personal leadership skill and capability and contribute to the development of the food and fibre sector."
Smith said she would like to see more Māori on the programme.
"We need more Māori at the table. We are big contributors to the food and fibre sector and we have a lot of value to add. This programme can open doors and create opportunities for Māori."
Te Puni Kōkiri will offer two full scholarships for Māori in the Whanganui programme, each worth $5000, to foster Māori rural leadership. Whanganui and Partners is also offering two scholarships worth $2500 each.
Applications for next year's programme will open later in the year.